Monday, June 17, 2024

‘Can’t afford to rebuild’: Furious Lebanese count their losses from blast, plan demonstration

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As Beirut mourns its dead and grapples with the scale of rebuilding after this week’s massive blast, some Lebanese activists planned to demonstrate in the city on Saturday, angered by the government’s response to the disaster.

Tuesday’s port explosion, the biggest in Beirut’s history, killed 154 people, injured 5,000 and destroyed a swathe of the city.

Some residents, struggling to clean up shattered homes, complain the state they see as corrupt – there had been months of protests against the government’s handling of a deep economic crisis before this week’s disaster – has let them down again.

The demonstration 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 also 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.

Some residents wondered how they would ever rebuild their lives.

Tearing up, Bilal Hassan used his bare hands to try to remove debris from his home located a few hundred metres from where the port blast hit. He has been sleeping on a dusty couch besides pieces of splintered glass.


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