People hold vigil to mourn Beirut blast victims

13 August, 2020 12:00 AM printer

People hold vigil to mourn Beirut blast victims

BEIRUT: People in Beirut have attended a vigil for the more than 200 victims of the huge explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital a week ago, reports BBC.

A crowd stood in silence near the ruins of the city’s port as a Muslim call to prayer was broadcast and church bells tolled at 18:08 (15:08 GMT).

That was the exact time when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a port warehouse detonated.

There has been outrage that so much hazardous material was kept there.

The Lebanese government’s resignation on Monday failed to pacify protesters, who clashed with police in central Beirut for a third consecutive night.

Lebanon was already struggling with an unprecedented economic crisis before the disaster, with families pushed into poverty and hunger.

Since October, protesters have been demanding the complete overhaul of the political system, which they blame for government corruption and mismanagement.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab, a university professor who took office in January with the support of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its allies following the resignation of the previous government, announced his cabinet’s resignation in a televised address on Monday night.

He avoided taking responsibility for last week’s blast, blaming it on the entrenched political elite.

“Their corruption created this tragedy,” he said. “Between us and change stands a thick wall protected by their dirty tactics.”

Diab said that his caretaker administration would “follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster”.

The BBC’s Tom Bateman in Beirut says it is unlikely the mass resignation of the government will remove much heat from the protests, as Lebanon’s problems are only deepening.

A new prime minister will have to be chosen using the same system of sectarian politics at the root of many people’s complaints, our correspondent adds.

Meanwhile, the recovery operation is continuing on the ground in Beirut.

The UN said on Tuesday that the World Food Programme would be sending 50,000 tonnes of wheat flour to Beirut to “stabilise the national supply and ensure there is no food shortage in the country”, with 17,500 tonnes arriving within two weeks.

The head of the agency, David Beasley, warned on Monday that he was very concerned that Lebanon could run out of bread in about two-and-a-half weeks because 85% of the country’s grain was usually delivered through Beirut’s port.

Beasley said it was urgent to get the port up and running, and that he believed it could be temporarily operational in two to three weeks.

A port official noted that the container terminal suffered “minimal damage” and that on Monday night a ship docked there for the first time since the explosion.

At least 15 medical facilities, including three major hospitals, also sustained partial or heavy structural damage last Tuesday.


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