- Some people in Lebanon are angry at the government in the wake of a horror blast which killed more than 150 people.
- The blast is seen as another government failing after allegations of corruption and an economic crisis.
- Meanwhile, at least 43 Syrian nationals were confirmed to be among those who were killed in the blast.
As Beirut mourns its dead and grapples with the scale of rebuilding after this week’s massive blast, some Lebanese angered by their government’s response called on foreign states to topple their leaders and run the country.
Activists planned to demonstrate in the city on Saturday to criticise the government’s handling of the biggest explosion in Beirut’s history. The blast in the port killed 154 people, injured 5 000 and destroyed a swathe of the city.
The government has promised to hold those responsible to account.
Some residents, struggling to clean up shattered homes, complain the government they see as corrupt – there had been months of protests against its handling of a deep economic crisis before this week’s disaster – has let them down again.
“We have no trust in our government,” said university student Celine Dibo as she scrubbed blood off the walls of her shattered apartment building. “I wish the United Nations would take over Lebanon.”
Meanwhile, at least 43 Syrian nationals were among those killed in a massive explosion in the port of Beirut on Tuesday that destroyed parts of the Lebanese capital, Al-Mayadeen TV channel said on Saturday, citing the Syrian embassy in Lebanon.
Al Mayadeen is a Lebanon-based channel close to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
AFP reported that the wife of Dutch ambassador to Lebanon Jan Waltmans has died of wounds sustained in the Beirut bomb explosion, the Netherlands’ foreign ministry said Saturday.
“It is with dismay and great sadness that we report the death of our colleague Hedwig Waltmans-Molier. She succumbed to injuries sustained in the massive explosion in Beirut,” the ministry said in a statement.
Several people in Lebanon said they were not at all surprised that French President Emmanuel Macron had visited their gutted neighbourhoods near the epicentre of the blast this week while Lebanese leaders had not.
Priests chanted as they carried a coffin through the street to the church were she was sitting alone praying.
Macron, who visited Beirut on Thursday, promised angry crowds that aid to rebuild the city would not fall into “corrupt hands”. He will host a donor conference for Lebanon via video-link on Sunday, his office said.
The demonstration in Beirut was planned for Saturday afternoon.
“The people are doing your work, shame,” someone wrote on the dust covering a car window, referring to Lebanese leaders.
The prime minister and presidency have said 2 750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, which is used in making fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years without safety measures at the port warehouse.
President Michel Aoun said on Friday an investigation would examine whether it was caused by a bomb or other external interference. Aoun said the investigation would also weigh if the blast was due to negligence or an accident. Twenty people had been detained so far, he added.
France and other countries have rushed emergency aid to Lebanon, including doctors, and tons of health equipment and food. The blast destroyed Lebanon’s only major grain silo and UN agencies are helping provide emergency food and medical aid.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Aoun, Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday he would seek to mobilise Arab efforts to provide support to Lebanon. Also speaking after meeting Aoun, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said his country is ready to help rebuild the port.
For ordinary Lebanese, the scale of destruction is overwhelming.
“It felt like a mini atomic bomb,” said George Rohana, sitting beside a supermarket that was demolished.
A few onions were left in the debris of the blast that tore a huge hole through the shop into an adjacent apartment.
“Now we have a situation where people are stealing metals and other items from the destruction,” said Rohana. “The other day someone walked away with a broken toaster.”
Marita Abou Jawda was handing out bread and cheese to victims of the blast.
“Macron offered to help and our government has not done anything. It has always been like that,” she said. “After Macron visited I played the French national anthem all day in my car.”