Beirut explosion: Lebanon's government 'to resign' as death toll rises

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Starting with the epicentre, we follow how the 4 August blast ripped through the city, bringing life to a halt

The Lebanese government is reportedly about to resign amid mounting anger over last Tuesday's explosion in Beirut that killed more than 200 people.

Health Minister Hamad Hasan was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying an announcement would be made soon.

Three ministers have already stepped down, but there have been calls for the whole cabinet to go.

Many have accused Lebanon's leaders of culpability for the blast through their alleged negligence and corruption.

The president and prime minister have said the explosion was the result of the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored for six years without safety measures at Beirut's port.

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Some protesters have been throwing stones at police who responded with tear gas

Over the weekend, anti-government protesters stormed some ministry buildings in the centre of the capital and clashed with police.

By Monday morning the justice minister, information minister and environment minister had all resigned. The finance minister was reportedly preparing to quit ahead of a cabinet meeting called by Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

Mr Diab is expected to address the nation at 19:30 local time (16:30 GMT).

More on the explosion in Beirut

Meanwhile, Beirut city governor Marwan Abboud was quoted by the al-Marsad Online news website as saying the death toll from the explosion had risen to 220, and that 110 people remained missing.

He told the Al Jadeed TV channel that many foreign workers and lorry drivers were among the missing, which he said had made identifying them more difficult.

Image source, EPA
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As many as 300,000 people were left homeless after Tuesday's explosion

The Lebanese army also said it was calling off the rescue phase of the search operation at the port because no survivors had been found.

Elsewhere in the city, hundreds of thousands of people are living in severely damaged homes, many without windows or doors.

A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said the needs of those affected were "huge".

"These people need shelter, they need food... they also need cleaning detergents, they need help in picking up what is left of their homes," Rona Halabi told the BBC.

She added: "But there is also another need for the infrastructure of Beirut... Two main water and electricity stations have been heavily damaged by the explosion."

Image source, Reuters
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Prime Minister Hassan Diab (L) has vowed that those responsible for the blast will "pay a price"

A convent outside Beirut has opened its doors to people left homeless.

One of its members, Sister Jocelyne, told the BBC: "We are open in our guesthouse, we are supporting people in order to help them… we are providing food, water [and] clothes."

"In that way we could help them to admit what's happening because it is beyond what you see in the photos - it's much bigger."

Officials have estimated that the explosion caused more than $3bn (£2.3bn) of damage and that Lebanon's collective economic losses may amount to $15bn.

Media caption,
Producer and DJ 'june as' finds solace in music after the blast tore through his high-rise apartment

The country was already suffering a major economic downturn before the explosion, with families pushed into poverty and hunger, and UN agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis unless food and medical aid are delivered swiftly.

International donors pledged $297m (£227m) in aid for Lebanon at a virtual summit on Sunday hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

A joint communique underscored their concerns about corruption, saying that the assistance should be "directly delivered to the Lebanese population, with utmost efficiency and transparency".

The donors said further assistance was dependent on Lebanese authorities fully committing to "timely measures and reforms expected by the Lebanese people".

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