Protests broke out in Beirut on Thursday, with protesters clashing with Lebanese police following the blast that devastated the city on Tuesday.
The Beirut protests erupted as a result of what has been construed as government negligence over the unsafe storage of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, that caused the devastating blast, which destroyed countless homes and businesses, and reduced entire districts to rubble. The explosion has also caused at least 137 deaths and 5,000 injuries.
BBC reports that 16 people have been taken into police custody, as part of a government investigation that was announced earlier in the week. Furthermore, two government officials have resigned with MP Marwan Hamadeh stepping down on Wednesday, while Lebanon’s ambassador to Jordan, Tracy Chamoun, stepped down on Thursday, saying the catastrophe showed the need for a change in leadership.
These sentiments were mirrored by French President, Emmanuel Macron who called for “profound change during his trip to Lebanon earlier on Thursday before calling for an international investigation into the explosion.
The Beirut protests may also be in response to the sheer economic disaster that will be caused by the destruction of the port.
“This port was Lebanon’s lifeline to the whole world,” says BBC’s Quentin Sommerville. “Something like 80% of the country’s grain came through here. The grain silos, which were built way back when, are teetering. Just beyond there I can see a ship listing heavily. I’ve lived in Beirut for five years and it’s almost unrecognisable – it’s a city of sirens, of empty buildings, of empty streets.
“The thing that really strikes me is how enormously stupid it was, what criminal negligence it took to leave this highly explosive material right in the very heart of this city, within yards of people, their homes, their businesses. And the authorities here knew – they had been warned that these chemicals were dangerous and that they were a great risk to Beirut and Lebanon.”