Beirut Protesters Tear-Gassed As Thousands Gather Following Port Explosion
Thousands of demonstrators in Beirut, Lebanon, have been tear-gassed as they protest the government’s handling of the explosion, which has left around 300,000 people homeless.
While the exact cause of the explosion is yet to be confirmed, it has been called the biggest non-nuclear blast in history by experts.
Now, thousands of Lebanese citizens have poured onto the streets after it was revealed President Michel Aoun knew the warehouse contained dangerous explosives.
It’s believed the 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, which was being stored near the port, caught fire and caused the blast.
Protesters chanted ‘revolution’ and ‘downfall of the regime’, while hanging a noose along a wooden frame at Martyrs’ Square, where they accused politicians of ‘murdering people many times over.’
Soldiers were deployed to the streets and security forces fired teargas into the crowds. Many of the demonstrators were people who had been injured in the blast.
Lebanon was already struggling as a nation due to a severe financial crisis, with food prices soaring and many families left to starve. Some parts of the country were even seeing as many as 20 power cuts a day, as a result of chronic fuel shortages, long before the explosion destroyed hundreds of homes.
One of the protesters, whose home and business were destroyed in the blast, told the Independent:
We are all against the government and want to see the politicians hang. Our president put us in this and situation – he has killed so many times over, and we cannot survive any more.
They have destroyed our homes, our businesses they stole our money, our savings, and our future.
Meanwhile, a number of port officials in the capital have been placed under house arrest pending an investigation into the explosion.
The head of the port of Beirut and the head of the customs authority, Badri Daher, both claimed they had written to the judiciary several times asking that the chemical be exported or sold on, but Daher said ‘this did not happen’.
He added: ‘We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why.’
Following the blast, all port officials ‘who have handled the affairs of storing [the] ammonium nitrate, guarding it and handling its paperwork’ since June 2014 are subject to house arrest, Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said.
At least 135 people have been confirmed dead following the blast, with at least 5,000 more injured.