Protesters clashed with Lebanese security forces at anti-government demonstrations in Beirut on Thursday.
Officers deployed tear gas on dozens of people near parliament.
Demonstrators were angered by Tuesday’s devastating blast, which officials say was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely since 2013.
Many in Lebanon say government negligence led to the explosion, which killed at least 137 people and injured about 5,000 others.
The explosion destroyed entire districts in the capital, with homes and businesses reduced to rubble. Dozens of people are still unaccounted for.
- Lebanon Lebanese authorities have taken into custody 16 individuals as part of an investigation into the Beirut port warehouse explosion that shook the capital, state news agency NNA reported.
- The Lebanese government has given an investigative committee probing the blast, four days to determine responsibility for the explosoin, Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe told French radio.
- French President Emmanuel Macron offered France’s support for the Lebanese people on a visit to Beirut after the port blast, but said crisis-hit Lebanon would “continue to sink” unless its leaders carry out reforms.
- Officials said the death toll from the explosion killing at least 157 people and injuring 5,000 others, was expected to rise as search and rescue operations continued for people listed missing under the rubble in areas near the port.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, August 7
01:47 GMT – Ex-captain of cargo ship blames Lebanese authorities for blast
Boris Prokoshev, the former captain of the ship that brought almost 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to the Beirut, said Lebanese authorities were “very well” of the dangers posed by the vessel’s cargo.
“It’s the government of Lebanon that brought about this situation,” Prokoshev told the Associated Press news agency from his home in the Krasnodar region of Russia.
His ship, the MV Rhosus, was not supposed to be in Lebanon at all, he said.
Boris Prokoshev, a sea captain poses for a photo after his interview with the Associated Press outside Sochi, Russia [Kirill Lemekh/ AP Photo]
When it set sail from the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi, it was bound for the Mozambiquan port of Beira. But the Rhosus made a stop in Beirut to try to earn extra money by taking on several pieces of heavy machinery.
The machinery proved too heavy for the Rhosus, however, and the crew refused to take it on. And the ship was soon impounded by the Lebanese authorities for failing to pay port fees, and never left the port again.
“They knew very well that there was dangerous cargo there,” Prokoshev said. “In my opinion, they should have even paid him (owner of the boat) to take the dangerous cargo, a real headache, out of the port. But they just arrested the ship instead.”
00:54 GMT – EU releases 33 million euros in emergency aid
The European Union announced the release of 33 million euros in emergency aid to Lebanon to help cover the immediate needs of emergency services and hospitals in Beirut.
A donor conference is also planned to mobilise additional funding for reconstruction after an assessment of what is required, an EU source told AFP news agency.
Thursday, August 6
23:38 GMT – Tear gas as protesters gather in downtown Beirut
Security forces fired tear gas to disperse dozens of anti-government protesters calling for the Lebanese government’s resignation near the parliament building in Beirut.
The state-run National News Agency (NNA) said protesters set fires, vandalized stores and threw stones at security forces, prompting the officers to use tear gas.
Several people were wounded in the clashes the agency said.
Riot police advance to push back anti-government protesters in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 7, 2020 [Hassan Ammar/ AP]
Anti-government protesters throw stones and clash with the riot police in downtown Beirut [Hassan Ammar/ AP]
Anti-government protesters call for the resignation of Lebanon’s government [Hassan Ammar/ AP]
21:00 GMT – Lebanon ambassador to Jordan resigns over government’s ‘negligence’
Lebanon’s ambassador to Jordan has announced her resignation, following a cataclysmic blast that ravaged central Beirut, saying “total negligence” by the country’s authorities signalled the need for a leadership change.
It is the second resignation by a Lebanese official since the explosion that wounded at least 5,000 and destroyed entire districts of the capital.
20:30 GMT – Italy pledges global ‘response’ to help Lebanon
Italy’s foreign minister has pledged an “international response” to help Lebanon. The country has already sent specialists, firefighters and over eight tonnes of humanitarian aid to Beirut.
“There will certainly be an international response and I am happy that countries like France are at the forefront in helping Lebanon,” Luigi Di Maio told AFP in an interview.
|Hundreds of thousands left homeless by Beirut explosion|
20:15 GMT – Lebanon central bank asks banks to make cheap dollar loans to those hit by explosion
Lebanon’s central bank has instructed banks and financial institutions to extend exceptional dollar loans at zero interest to individuals and firms impacted by the Beirut port explosion.
Banks have since October frozen people out of their own savings accounts and blocked transfers abroad. Under an April central bank circular, they now pay depositors with dollar accounts in cash in the local currency at a “market rate” well below that of the parallel market.
The central bank said the exceptional loans should be made, regardless of customer account limits, to individuals, private businesses, small- and medium-sized enterprises and corporations – with the exception of real estate developers – to carry out essential repairs to homes and businesses.
19:45 GMT – Mozambique denies knowledge of ship tied to explosion
Mozambican port authorities have denied any knowledge of the ship carrying the cargo of ammonium nitrate said to have caused the devastating explosion in Beirut.
They were reacting to widespread reports that the ammonium nitrate had arrived in Lebanon in 2013 on board a Moldovan-flagged ship sailing from Georgia and bound for the central port city of Beira.
“The port operator was not aware that the vessel MV Rhosus would dock at the port of Beira,” the Beira ports authority said in a statement.
It said typically the arrival of any ship at the port “is announced by the ship’s agent to the port operator seven to 15 days in advance”.
19:30 GMT – Sixteen detained over Beirut explosion: Report
State news agency NNA has quoted Judge Fadi Akiki, a government representative at the military court, as saying authorities had so far questioned more than 18 port and customs officials and individuals responsible for or involved in maintenance work at the warehouse housing highly explosive material that blew up.
“Sixteen people have been taken into custody as part of the investigation,” NNA quoted Akiki as saying, without naming the individuals. He said the investigation was continuing.
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19:15 GMT – Lebanon central bank freezes accounts of port, customs officials : document
Lebanon’s central bank has ordered a freeze on the accounts of the heads of Beirut port and Lebanese customs along with five others, according to a central bank directive seen by Reuters and confirmed by the central bank.
The directive, dated August 6, from the central bank special investigation commission for money laundering and terrorism fighting said the decision would be circulated to all banks and financial institutions in Lebanon, the public prosecutor in the appeals court and the head of the banking authority.
|Scenes from Beirut after massive deadly explosion|
19:00 GMT – Lebanese holders of Qatar residency permits will get priority to return
Following the directives of Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, Lebanese holders of Qatar residency permits who are currently in Lebanon and want to return to Qatar will be given priority.
Lebanese holders of Qatar residency permits will also be able to apply for entry for their immediate family members at the Qatar embassy in Beirut.
18:50 GMT – EU leaders call for additional support for Lebanon
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President Charles Michel have called for additional support for Lebanon.
“The dramatic incident will have major economic consequences for a country that was already facing many challenges, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the leaders said in a letter sent to the heads of state of the EU member states.
“We must keep in mind the strong partnership between the EU and Lebanon, a country of strategic importance which hosts the largest number of refugees per capita.”
18:35 GMT – UN releases $9m to help Beirut hospitals
The United Nations has said it is releasing $9m to address immediate needs following the explosion that devastated Beirut and help strengthen operations in the city’s hospitals.
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the money from the Lebanese Humanitarian Fund will be following by additional funds from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund.
He said the UN is carrying out assessments of the damage and needs resulting from the massive explosion and hopes to hold a meeting on Monday to inform the 193 UN member states of the results and launch an appeal to help Lebanon.
18:20 GMT – IMF urges Lebanon to break reform ‘impasse’
The International Monetary Fund has urged Lebanese officials to break an “impasse” and move ahead with reforms after a massive Beirut blast devastated the capital and cost the crisis-hit country billions in damages.
“It is essential to overcome the impasse in the discussions on critical reforms,” said the world body, which has been in talks with the Lebanese government since May over the country’s financial crisis.
The talks have since hit a wall, with the IMF urging authorities “to put in place a meaningful program to turn around the economy” following Tuesday’s explosion, which it called a “disaster.”
18:05 GMT – US army to send supplies to Beirut
The US military is sending shipments of water, food and medicine to Lebanon.
Deliveries of three C-17 military planes loaded with food, water and medical supplies are “impending,” a spokesman for US Army Central Command chief General Frank McKenzie has said, without stating when they would arrive.
McKenzie said the US was ready to continue providing assistance to the Lebanese during the “terrible tragedy” in partnership with the Lebanese army, the US embassy in Lebanon and the US international aid agency, USAID.
17:50 GMT – Macron warns Lebanon reforms are needed within months
Lebanon needs to make key reforms to its electricity, banking, and customs sectors immediately “in an international framework,” French President Emmanuel Macron has said.
Macron warned that without reform and action against corruption, the country could start running out of fuel and food within months” and that will be the fault of those who refuse to act today.”
“There will be a before and an after August 4,” Macron said, adding that he sees hope for change in the “anger of the youth and the street.”
17:25 GMT – Lebanon coronavirus cases peak after deadly blast
Lebanon hast recorded 255 new coronavirus cases – its highest single-day infection tally – after a monstrous blast upended a planned lockdown and sent thousands streaming into overflowing hospitals, already struggling to cope.
The health ministry figures were reported by the state-run National News Agency, which also announced two new deaths.
They bring the total number of COVID-19 infections in Lebanon to 4,604, including 70 deaths since the outbreak first began in February.
17:10 GMT – Macron: Aid conference for blast-hit Lebanon ‘in coming days’
French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that an international aid conference for disaster-hit Lebanon would be held soon.
Speaking to journalists at the end of snap visit to Beirut, he said the conference would be held “in the coming days”.
He stressed that the aid raised during the conference would be chaneled “directly to the people, the relief organisations and the teams that need it on the ground”.
Separately, the French leader stressed that an audit of the Lebanese central bank, among other changes, was needed in order to help the cash-strapped country, adding that the World Bank and UN would play a role in implementing reforms.
“If there is no audit of the central bank, in a few months there will be no more imports and then there will be lack of fuel and of food,” he said.
16:00 GMT – France’s Macron urges independent, transparent probe into blast
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that an independent, transparent investigation into the massive explosion in Beirut is “owed to the victims and their families” by Lebanese authorities.
Angry crowds approached Macron and the Beirut governor as they walked through a blast-torn street, and through a devastated pharmacy.
After meeting with political leaders later, the French leader mentioned the “anger in the street” he had witnessed earlier.
He said: “There is a political, moral, economic and financial crisis that has lasted several months, several years. This implies strong political responsibility.”
He said he discussed addressing corruption and other needed reforms with Lebanon’s president and prime minister.
“I came here to show the support of the French nation for the Lebanese people,” Macron said, stressing the word “people.”
Macron promised angry protesters on Thursday that French aid will not fall in the hands of corrupt politicians [Lebanese Presidency via Anadolu]
15:30 GMT – Denmark to donate $1.9 million to Lebanon
Denmark has pledged to donate 12 million kroner ($1.9 million) to Lebanon, chiefly to be channeled via the Red Cross, and 600 chemical protection suits.
Development Minister Rasmus Prehn said Tuesday’s explosions in Beirut come “at the worst possible time” for Lebanon. “The country’s economy and health care are already completely on their knees,” he said.
“And COVID-19 just makes the situation worse. At the same time, the country is home to 1.5 million refugees who also need support.”
So far this year, Denmark has provided 32 million kroner ($5.1 million) in humanitarian aid to Lebanon, mainly to help refugees in the Middle Eastern country.
15:15 GMT – UK PM Johnson says: We will focus on the needs of Lebanese people
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was shocked by the blast in Beirut and that Britain would continue to focus on the needs of the people of Lebanon.
“I was absolutely apalled and shocked by the scenes from Lebanon, from Beirut,” Johnson said. “I am sure that the UK will continue to focus on the needs of the people of Lebanon.”
14:45 GMT – Italy sends second plane carrying medical equipment to Lebanon
Italy has sent 8.5 tons of medical equipment to Lebanon in a second aid flight following the massive explosion in Beirut.
The foreign ministry said the flight left from Brindisi Thursday morning following a request from Lebanese authorities.
On board were surgical and trauma kits. Earlier, a team of firefighters and experts in chemical and biological agents flew in to help.
In a statement, the foreign ministry said the Italian assistance “represents a new show of friendship and solidarity toward the Lebanese people and authorities.”
|Beirut blast pushes economy to edge as many remain missing (4:37)|
14:25 GMT – Jordan to build field hospital in Beirut within 24-hours
Two Jordanian Air Force military aircraft are flying to Lebanon carrying material for a field hospital that’s expected to be set up within the next 24 hours in Beirut.
The military field hospital will be staffed by 160 medics and other staff and will include 45 beds, 10 intensive care beds and 2 surgery rooms.