Disasters & Accidents

Hundreds gather in Beirut to honor victims of blast

Beirut, Aug 11 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of people marched from the center of Lebanon’s capital to the port on Tuesday to commemorate the 171 people who perished in the massive explosion that rocked Beirut a week ago.

Participants carried candles as they made their way across the city to gather in front of the port, where they observed a moment of silence at the exact time of the Aug. 4 blast, which left more than 6,000 people injured and upwards of a quarter-million Beirutis homeless.

“We have lit candles, saluted the members of Civil Defense, firefighters, Red Cross, doctors and all of the Lebanese who helped on the streets,” 26-year-old marcher Hamza told Efe. “It’s now a week that we have been scared and in pain, in shock. There are people who have yet to leave their homes.”

Monday’s announcement by Prime Minister Hassan Diab that his Cabinet was stepping down did not satisfy the people taking part in the march, who chanted slogans against Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

“They have killed a lot of people, they live in another world. The resignation of the government has no meaning. It makes no sense: it’s as if they are giving a lollipop to a child so he forgets the pain,” Hamza said.

“There is no longer anything that represents us as Lebanese people,” he said.

The peaceful procession was followed by clashes between security forces and protesters, but on a smaller scale that those of the previous three days.

Outside Parliament, militants hurled rocks at police and soldiers, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

At least 42 people were injured during the clashes, including 10 people who had to be hospitalized, the Lebanese Red Cross said.

Last Tuesday’s catastrophe was caused by the detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate – a component in fertilizer and industrial explosives – that was left to sit in a warehouse at the port for six years without precautions.

A Health Ministry source told Efe Tuesday on condition of anonymity that going forward, authorities will not provide official updates on the number of those injured in the explosion.

“More than 6,000,” is all the ministry plans to say regarding the injured, the source said, without explaining the reason for the policy.

The ministry will likewise discontinue reporting on the number of people unaccounted for, leaving that to the military and the security forces, who are conducting the search-and-recovery operation. EFE


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