Anti-government protests simmering in Beirut after port blast

Anti-government protests are boiling in Beirut over the deadly port blast that killed more than 100 people and decimated the city center.

Authorities deployed tear gas on dozens of demonstrators near the nation’s parliament Thursday night as residents point blame on government negligence for the disaster, the BBC reported.

Officials believe the massive explosion in the port on Tuesday was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that authorities had known had been unsafely stored there since 2013.

The blast injured another 5,000 residents and destroyed neighborhoods of homes and businesses as the country grapples with an economic crisis already exacerbated by the coronavirus.

The combustible material — typically used to make fertilizers and explosives —  is believed to have been carried on a vessel owned by Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin, who allegedly abandoned the cargo at the port roughly seven years ago.

Authorities confiscated the material a year later, but it was left at the port in bureaucratic limbo as Lebanese courts failed to determine how to dispose of the chemical, The New York Times reported.

Lebanon’s state news agency reported 16 people have been taken into custody as part of a government investigation into the blast, according to the BBC.

Two officials have also resigned, including Marwan Hamadeh, a member of parliament who said he was no longer proud serving in an “ineffective” government, as well as Lebanon’s ambassador to Jordan, Tracy Chamoun, the outlet reported.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the site of the explosion earlier Thursday, calling for a “profound change” from Lebanon’s leadership and an international investigation into the tragedy, the Evening Standard reported.

“If reforms are not carried out, Lebanon will continue to sink,” Macron said.

“What is also needed here is political change,” he added. “This explosion should be the start of a new era.”


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