Beirut Explosion

Death toll rises to 200

11 August, 2020 12:00 AM printer

BEIRUT: More than 200 people are believed to have been killed by Tuesday’s devastating explosion in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, its governor has said.

Marwan Abboud said dozens were still missing, many of them foreign workers.

On Sunday there was a second night of violence in the city, as police clashed with protesters angry with the government’s response to the disaster, reports BBC.

The resignation of three members of the cabinet, including the justice minister on Monday, has not quelled the fury. Fresh protests have been called for Monday afternoon when Prime Minister Hassan Diab is due to chair a cabinet meeting.

Diab has said the blast was the result of the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored unsafely at Beirut’s port for six years.

The decision to keep so much hazardous material in a warehouse near the city centre has been met with disbelief by many Lebanese, who have long accused the political elite of corruption, neglect and mismanagement.

Abboud was quoted by the al-Marsad Online news website as saying the death toll from the explosion had risen to 220, and that 110 people remained  missing.      

He told the Al Jadeed TV channel that many foreign workers and lorry drivers were among the missing, which he said had made identifying them more difficult.

The Lebanese army, meanwhile, said it was calling off the rescue phase of the search operation at the port because no survivors had been found.

Elsewhere in the city, hundreds of thousands of people are living in severely damaged homes, many without windows or doors.

Officials have estimated that the explosion caused more than $3bn (£2.3bn) of damage and that Lebanon’s collective economic losses may amount to $15bn. The country was already suffering a major economic downturn before the explosion, with families pushed into poverty and hunger, and UN agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis unless food and medical aid are delivered swiftly. International donors pledged $297m (£227m) in aid for Lebanon at a virtual summit on Sunday hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

A joint communique underscored their concerns about corruption, saying that the assistance should be “directly delivered to the Lebanese population, with utmost efficiency and transparency”.

The donors said further assistance was dependent on Lebanese authorities fully committing to “timely measures and reforms expected by the Lebanese people”.

 


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