WORLD NEWS

Tear Gas, Clashes In Beirut Amid Fury Over Massive Blast

Aug 8, 2020, 12:14 PM
BEIRUT, LEBANON - AUGUST 08: People gather at an anti-government protest on August 8, 2020 in Beiru...
BEIRUT, LEBANON - AUGUST 08: People gather at an anti-government protest on August 8, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon. The Lebanese capital is reeling from this week's massive explosion that killed at least 150 people, wounded thousands, and destroyed wide swaths of the city. Residents are demanding accountability for the blast, whose suspected cause was 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored for years at the city's port. (Photo by Daniel Carde/Getty Images)
(Photo by Daniel Carde/Getty Images)

BEIRUT (AP) — Security forces fired tear gas and clashed with stone-throwing demonstrators Saturday in Beirut, and a group of protesters stormed the foreign ministry amid mounting fury over this week’s explosion that devastated much of the city and killed nearly 160 people. Dozens were still missing and nearly 6,000 people injured.

Activists who called for the protest set up symbolic nooses at Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square to hang politicians whose corruption and negligence they blame for Tuesday’s blast.

The explosion was fueled by thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate that had been improperly stored at the city’s port for more than six years. Apparently set off by a fire, the blast was by far the biggest in Lebanon’s troubled history and caused an estimated $10 billion to 15 billion in damage, according to Beirut’s governor. It also damaged 6,200 buildings and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

The disaster has taken popular anger to a new level in a country already reeling from an unprecedented economic and financial crisis and near bankruptcy.

“Resignation or hang,” read a banner held by protesters, who also planned to hold a symbolic funeral for the dead. Some nooses were also set up along the bridges outside the Port.

Khodr Ghadir, 23, said the noose was for everyone who has been in power for the last 30 years. “What happened was a spark for people to return to the streets.”

A placard listed the names of the dead, printed over a photo of the blast’s enormous pink mushroom cloud. “We are here for you,” it read.

In a televised speech Saturday evening, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the only solution was to hold early elections, which he planned to propose in a draft bill. He called on all political parties to put aside their disagreements and said he was prepared to stay in the post for two months to allow time for politicians to work on structural reforms.

The offer is unlikely to soothe the escalating fury on the street.

In central Beirut, some protesters threw stones at security forces who responded with heavy tear gas. Near parliament, protesters tried to jump over barriers that closed the road leading to the legislature. The protesters later set on fire a truck that was fortifying barriers on a road leading to parliament.

At least 142 people were hurt in the clashes, and 32 of them needed to be taken to the hospital, according to the Red Cross. Several protesters were seen being carried away with blood running down their faces. At one point, gunfire could be heard, but its source was not immediately clear.

In the capital’s hard-hit Achrafieh district, a group of protesters, including retired army officers, stormed the building of the foreign ministry, vowing to make it the headquarters for the “revolution.”

Retired army officer Sami Ramah read a statement on the steps of the ministry. “This authority must step down,” Ramah said. Some protesters entered the building and burned a few documents.

A mobile phone video showed a group of protesters also entering the empty building of the economy ministry. After nightfall, the protesters were still at the foreign ministry and vowed to enter the justice ministry

The gathering at Martyrs’ Square and outside the parliament building and government headquarters came amid popular anger against Lebanon’s political leadership. The country’s ruling class, made up mostly of former civil war-era leaders, is blamed for incompetence and mismanagement that contributed to Tuesday’s explosion.

“The current leaders’ bloodline needs to end. We want the death of the old Lebanon and the birth of a new one,” said Tarek, a 23-year-old university student who had prepared a mix of water and paint in a bottle to throw at the police. No peaceful protest would bring about change, he said.

The state, which is investigating the cause of the explosion, has been conspicuously absent from the ravaged streets of Beirut, with almost zero involvement in the cleanup, which has been left to teams of young volunteers with brooms who fanned out to sweep up broken glass and reopen roads.

The protest came as senior officials from the Middle East and Europe arrived in a show of solidarity with the tiny country that is still in shock.

In a show of anger, the president of the Christian opposition Kataeb party said its three legislators have decided to resign from Parliament over the disaster. Sami Gemayel called on every “honorable” member of parliament to step down and work for the “birth of a new Lebanon.”

A senior Kataeb party official was killed in the blast. Also killed were 43 Syrians, the country’s embassy in Beirut said. Lebanon is home to some 1 million Syrian refugees.

The Dutch foreign ministry said Saturday that Hedwig Waltmans-Molier, the wife of the Netherlands’ ambassador to Lebanon, had also died from injuries suffered in the explosion.

Documents that surfaced after the blast showed that officials had been repeatedly warned for years that the presence of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at the port posed a grave danger, but no one acted to remove it. Officials have been blaming one another, and 19 people have been detained, including the port’s chief, the head of Lebanon’s customs department and his predecessor.

“We will support Lebanon through all available means,” Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the secretary-general of the 22-member Arab League told reporters after meeting President Michel Aoun on Saturday morning. Aboul Gheit said he would take part in a donors conference for Lebanon in France on Sunday and convey Lebanon’s demands to the international community.

Later on Saturday, the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, arrived in Beirut for a brief visit. Turkey’s vice president and the country’s foreign minister met Aoun and said that Ankara was ready to help rebuild Beirut’s port and evacuate some of the wounded to Turkey for treatment.

At the site of the blast, workers continued searching for dozens of missing people. Bulldozers were also seen removing debris near a cluster of giant grain silos that were heavily damaged but still partly standing.

International aid has been flowing to Lebanon for days, and several field hospitals have been set up around Beirut to help treat the wounded.

President Donald Trump said Friday that he had spoken by telephone with Aoun and French President Emmanuel Macron, who paid a brief visit to Lebanon on Thursday. Trump noted that medical supplies, food and water were being sent from the United States, along with emergency responders, technicians, doctors and nurses.

The ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in fertilizers and explosives, originated from a cargo ship called MV Rhosus that had been traveling from the country of Georgia to Mozambique in 2013. It made an unscheduled detour to Beirut as the Russian shipowner was struggling with debts and hoped to earn some extra cash in Lebanon. Unable to pay port fees and reportedly leaking, the ship was impounded.

In 2014, the material was moved from the ship and placed in a warehouse at the port where it stayed until the explosion.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

World News

CUSCO, PERU - MAY 23: A view over the city of Cusco from the Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman on May 23, ...
FRANLIN BRICEÑO Associated Press

Peru home build vexed by ‘the neighbors’ — Inca-era mummies

Hipólito Tica had saved for decades to finally build himself a proper house in a working class neighborhood of Lima. His problem was what to do about “the neighbors” — as he called the centuries-old mummies buried below.
2 days ago
Japanese musician Takeshi (L) and Canadian musician Randy Bachman (R) exchange guitars on July 01, ...
MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search has ended after he was reunited in Tokyo with a cherished guitar 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.
2 days ago
DONETSK DISTRICT, UKRAINE - JULY 01: A fireball appears in the woods as a tank unit with the 14th M...
NOMAAN MERCHANT Associated Press

US announces $820M in Ukraine aid, including missile systems

The U.S. announced on Friday that it will provide Ukraine with $820 million in new military aid, including new surface-to-air missile systems and counter-artillery radars to respond to Russia's heavy reliance on long-range strikes in the war.
2 days ago
ODESSA, UKRAINE - JULY 01: A destroyed building is seen after the Russian missile attack where 17 p...
Rob Picheta, Jonny Hallam, Cristiana Moisescu and Julia Presniakova CNN

Russian missile strikes on Odesa kill 20, including a child, after housing block hit overnight

At least 20 people, including a child, were killed when Russia launched overnight missile strikes at a residential building and a recreation center near Odesa, southern Ukraine, officials said on Friday.
2 days ago
FILE: Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy Of Ecuador on May 19, 2017...
FRANK GRIFFITHS, Associated Press

Julian Assange appeals to UK court against extradition to US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has appealed against the British’s government decision last month to order his extradition to the U.S.
2 days ago
Soldiers survey damage and salvage items after a projectile and subsequent fire destroyed a warehou...
FRANCESCA EBEL, Associated Press

Russian forces leave Snake Island, keep up eastern assault

Russia has pulled back its forces from a Black Sea island where they have faced relentless Ukrainian attacks, but is keeping up its push to encircle the last bulwark of Ukraine’s resistance in the eastern province of Luhansk.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Tear Gas, Clashes In Beirut Amid Fury Over Massive Blast