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Beirut erupts in fury: Police fire tear gas as protesters rage at elite corruption blamed for deadly blast and 'playing hot potato with a megabomb'

Lebanese security forces faced off with dozens of anti-government demonstrators last night, angered by the devastating explosion which killed at least 149 people and is widely seen as the most shocking expression yet of the government's incompetence.
Tear gas was fired to disperse scuffles that broke out in ravaged streets in central Beirut leading to parliament, the wreckage from Tuesday's explosion still littering the entire area. 
In addition to the 149 deaths, the blast has injured more than 5,000 people, left 300,000 others homeless and sparked panic over wheat shortages after 15,000 tonnes of grains were blasted out of the silos.  
While investigators have arrested the port manager and 15 other officials in a search for answers, many Lebanese put the blame squarely on the political elite and the corruption and mismanagement that even before the disaster had pushed the country to the brink of economic collapse. 
Lebanon is already seeking $20billion in funding from the IMF and now faces billions more in disaster costs, with losses from the explosion estimated to be between $10billion and $15billion.  
A crowd had earlier mobbed visiting French President Emmanuel Macron, demanding his help in overthrowing Lebanon's reviled leaders, with many chanting for 'revolution' and to 'bring down the regime'. 
Lebanese security forces faced off with dozens of anti-government demonstrators last night, angered by the devastating explosion widely seen as the most shocking expression yet of the government's incompetence
Lebanese security forces faced off with dozens of anti-government demonstrators last night, angered by the devastating explosion widely seen as the most shocking expression yet of the government's incompetence
Tear gas was fired to disperse scuffles that broke out in ravaged streets in central Beirut leading to parliament, the wreckage from Tuesday's explosion still littering the entire area
Tear gas was fired to disperse scuffles that broke out in ravaged streets in central Beirut leading to parliament, the wreckage from Tuesday's explosion still littering the entire area
Many Lebanese put the blame squarely on the political elite and the corruption and mismanagement that even before the disaster had pushed the country to the brink of economic collapse
Many Lebanese put the blame squarely on the political elite and the corruption and mismanagement that even before the disaster had pushed the country to the brink of economic collapse
Protests in Beirut against the government after explosion
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The blast, caused by a stockpile of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate which caught fire, has threatened to reignite anti-government protests in Lebanon that have been ongoing since last year
The blast, caused by a stockpile of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate which caught fire, has threatened to reignite anti-government protests in Lebanon that have been ongoing since last year
A view of shipping containers at the damaged site of Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area today
A view of shipping containers at the damaged site of Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area today 

The explosion has reignited anti-government protests in Lebanon that have been ongoing since last year amid anger at entrenched incompetence and corruption. 
The feeling of resentment and anger towards the government is palpable in the words of those protesting, and the Arabic hashtag 'Prepare the nooses' trending on social media.
Anthony Elghossain, a Lebanese-American lawyer, said: 'Lebanese leaders have killed a country, buried it and p****d on its grave. That's what people are feeling right now.
'For 30 years people have been telling themselves it can't get much worse but look at it now ... they played hot potato with a megabomb,' he said, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Mr Macron, who was mobbed by angry Lebanese during the first visit by a foreign leader since the explosion, promised to mobilise aid to the former French protectorate. 
However, he warned there would be no blank cheque for leaders without serious reform, and at a press conference he called for an international inquiry into the explosion.  
'If reforms are not carried out, Lebanon will continue to sink,' Macron said after being met at the airport by Lebanese President Michel Aoun. 
'What is also needed here is political change. This explosion should be the start of a new era.'
He also promised that French aid would be given out with transparency and 'will not go into the hands of corruption.' 
In one powerful moment the French leader stopped and offered a hug to a distraught woman in the crowd who was heard shouting: 'You are sitting with warlords. They have been manipulating us for the past year.' Macron replied: 'I'm not here to help them. I'm here to help you'.  
Hours after Macron left Gemmayzeh, Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm tried to visit, only to be driven out by protesters. 
It comes as a leading Lebanese opposition figure blamed terrorist group Hezbollah, along with the country's 'corrupt' government, for the devastating explosion which capsized a cruise ship and has so far claimed 149 lives.
Bahaa Hariri, whose father, Prime Minister Rafiq, was assassinated in 2005, said last night everyone in the city knew Hezbollah controlled Beirut's port and airport and it was inconceivable that the authorities did not know the deadly ammonium nitrate was stored in a warehouse there.
Speaking for the first time Mr Hariri, 54, said: 'The question we have to ask is how come for six years this combustible material was allowed to remain in the middle of this city of two million people?'
'It is crystal clear Hezbollah are in charge of the Port and the Warehouse where the ammonium nitrate was stored.
'Nothing goes in and out of the Port or the Airport does so with them knowing. Nothing.
'Their decision to put it there in the middle of a city of two million people was an utter disaster. And now we have a destroyed city centre.' 
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which has been investigating the assassination of Rafiq Hariri for the last 15 years, was due to announce its judgment on Friday. This has now been postponed until August 18. 
At least 145 people have so far been confirmed dead, with some 5,000 wounded, 300,000 homeless, and widespread damage which is estimated to total $5billion
At least 145 people have so far been confirmed dead, with some 5,000 wounded, 300,000 homeless, and widespread damage which is estimated to total $5billion
Yesterday a crowd mobbed visiting French President Emmanuel Macron, demanding his help in overthrowing Lebanon's reviled leaders, with many chanting for 'revolution' and to 'bring down the regime'
Yesterday a crowd mobbed visiting French President Emmanuel Macron, demanding his help in overthrowing Lebanon's reviled leaders, with many chanting for 'revolution' and to 'bring down the regime'
Emmanuel Macron visits site of devastating explosion in Beirut
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Mr Macron, paying the first visit by a foreign leader since the explosion, promised to mobilise aid to the blast-stricken country, but warned there would be no blank cheque for leaders without serious reform, and at a press conference he called for an international inquiry into the explosion
Mr Macron, paying the first visit by a foreign leader since the explosion, promised to mobilise aid to the blast-stricken country, but warned there would be no blank cheque for leaders without serious reform, and at a press conference he called for an international inquiry into the explosion 
In one powerful moment the French leader stopped and offered a hug to a distraught woman in the crowd who was heard shouting: 'You are sitting with warlords. They have been manipulating us for the past year.' Macron replied: 'I'm not here to help them. I'm here to help you'
In one powerful moment the French leader stopped and offered a hug to a distraught woman in the crowd who was heard shouting: 'You are sitting with warlords. They have been manipulating us for the past year.' Macron replied: 'I'm not here to help them. I'm here to help you'
French president becomes first world leader to visit Beirut
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Bahaa Hariri, whose father, Prime Minister Rafiq, was assassinated in 2005, said last night everyone in the city knew Hezbollah controlled Beirut's port and airport and it was inconceivable that the authorities did not know the deadly ammonium nitrate was stored in a warehouse there
Bahaa Hariri, whose father, Prime Minister Rafiq, was assassinated in 2005, said last night everyone in the city knew Hezbollah controlled Beirut's port and airport and it was inconceivable that the authorities did not know the deadly ammonium nitrate was stored in a warehouse there
The Queen has expressed her 'deep sadness' at the scenes of devastation in Beirut following a huge explosion that killed more than 100 people
The Queen has expressed her 'deep sadness' at the scenes of devastation in Beirut following a huge explosion that killed more than 100 people

There are now thought to be 300,000 left homeless and widespread damage estimated at up to $15billion - including a 390ft cruise ship which capsized as a result of the blast.
The Orient Queen, which had capacity for up to 300 passengers, was not carrying any passengers on board at the time after summer cruising operations had been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the ship's crew was killed with another still missing. Several other members of the crew remain in hospitals across the city, according to the ship's operator Abou Merhi Cruises.
'It's a sad, sad day for all of us,' said the cruise operator on social media. 
'Abou Merhi Cruises has lost a precious soul in the tragedy that took place at the port of Beirut. Heilemariam Reta (Hailey) from Ethiopia.
'Our prayers and thoughts are with the family of Mustafa Airout from Syria who was at the port and is still missing'. 
Hospitals have also been badly damaged by the explosion, and medical centres were overwhelmed with cases other than Covid-19 for the first time in months with some having to turn away the wounded.  
A military judge leading the investigation into Tuesday's blast said 16 employees of Beirut's port, where the explosion took place, had been detained. He said 18 had been questioned, including port and customs officials, according to the state news agency. 
Cypriot police say they have questioned a Russian man over alleged links to a ship and its cargo of ammonium nitrate said to have caused the devastating explosion. 
The dangerous load of ammonium nitrate is understood to have been abandoned by Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin in September 2013, according to two letters issued by the director general of Lebanese Customs.
A ship carrying the load was detained en route from Batumi, in the ex-Soviet republic Georgia, to Mozambique, and never recovered. 
For reasons that are unclear, dockworkers unloaded the chemical, which can be used to make fertilisers and explosives, and put it into storage at the port where it remained for six years.   
A leading Lebanese opposition figure has blamed Hezbollah, along with the country's government, for the devastating explosion in Beirut on Tuesday which capsized a cruise ship (pictured) and has so far claimed 137 lives
A leading Lebanese opposition figure has blamed Hezbollah, along with the country's government, for the devastating explosion in Beirut on Tuesday which capsized a cruise ship (pictured) and has so far claimed 137 lives
Public funeral is held for victim of the Beirut explosion
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Dozens of funerals have now begun across the city after the explosion killed at least 137. Pictured: Carole Helou hugging the coffin of her sister Nicole, 25, who was killed in the massive blast two days ago
Dozens of funerals have now begun across the city after the explosion killed at least 137. Pictured: Carole Helou hugging the coffin of her sister Nicole, 25, who was killed in the massive blast two days ago
There are now thought to be 300,000 left homeless and wide-spread damage estimated at up to $5billion - including a 120-metre long cruise ship which capsized as a result of the blast
There are now thought to be 300,000 left homeless and wide-spread damage estimated at up to $5billion - including a 120-metre long cruise ship which capsized as a result of the blast
France has long sought to support its former colony and has sent emergency aid since the blast, but is worried about endemic corruption and has pressed for reforms as a financial crisis deepened in the Middle East country. Pictured: President Macron arriving to inspect the site
France has long sought to support its former colony and has sent emergency aid since the blast, but is worried about endemic corruption and has pressed for reforms as a financial crisis deepened in the Middle East country. Pictured: President Macron arriving to inspect the site
The explosion on Tuesday night, which was reportedly the size of a small nuke, has left at least 137 people dead and a further 5,000 wounded. Pictured: Wreckage of a ship devastated in the explosion
The explosion on Tuesday night, which was reportedly the size of a small nuke, has left at least 137 people dead and a further 5,000 wounded. Pictured: Wreckage of a ship devastated in the explosion
There are now thought to be 300,000 left homeless and wide-spread damage estimated at up to $5billion - including a 120-metre long cruise ship which capsized as a result of the blast. Pictured: A soldier walks at the devastated site of the explosion at the port of Beirut
There are now thought to be 300,000 left homeless and wide-spread damage estimated at up to $5billion - including a 120-metre long cruise ship which capsized as a result of the blast. Pictured: A soldier walks at the devastated site of the explosion at the port of Beirut
The explosion has 137 people dead, at least 5,000 people wounded and 300,000 homeless as dozens of funerals begin across the city. Pictured: Men carry the coffin of Nicole Helou, 25, a Lebanese woman killed in the blast on Tuesday
The explosion has 137 people dead, at least 5,000 people wounded and 300,000 homeless as dozens of funerals begin across the city. Pictured: Men carry the coffin of Nicole Helou, 25, a Lebanese woman killed in the blast on Tuesday
The explosion has threatened to reignite anti-government protests in Lebanon that have been ongoing since last year amid allegations of entrenched incompetence and corruption (aftermath of the blast pictured)
The explosion has threatened to reignite anti-government protests in Lebanon that have been ongoing since last year amid allegations of entrenched incompetence and corruption (aftermath of the blast pictured)

The chemical was being kept in Warehouse 12 next to a series of other structures where Customs kept commercial cargo and personal belongings of people who had shipped them to Lebanon.
It has been reported that in order to retrieve any belongings from the port bundles of money were needed to pay off different factions among the port's bureaucracy.  
Lebanon has placed every official responsible for the security of Beirut's port for the last six years under house arrest as it investigates the explosion. 
But the head of the Beirut port, Hassan Koraytem, told pro-government broadcaster OTV that the Customs department, as well as state security, had wanted the material to be exported or removed, but that 'nothing happened'. 
The country's political leaders vowed those responsible for the tragedy would 'pay the price', but customs officials pointed the finger of blame back at them - saying they were repeatedly warned of the danger but failed to act.  
Raghida Dergham of the Beirut Institute yesterday said: 'Storing Ammonium Nitrate in a civilian port is a crime against humanity that must not go unpunished. 
'Condemnations are not enough. I'm safe but devastated. I lost friends. I lost my apartment. Had I been home, I would have lost my life.'  
An official source familiar with preliminary investigations blamed the incident on negligence. Lebanese citizens directed anger at politicians who have overseen decades of state corruption and bad governance that plunged the nation into financial crisis.   
Director General of Lebanese Customs Badri Daher said the country's judiciary was told six times about the hazardous chemicals stored in a warehouse in the Lebanese capital. 
Customs officials are understood to have asked authorities to move the dangerous substance from Hangar 12 due to the danger they believe it posed to the city and given to the army or sold to an explosives company.
'We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why,' Daher said. 
Another source close to a port employee said a team that inspected the ammonium nitrate six months ago warned that if it was not moved it would 'blow up all of Beirut'.   
The explosion on Tuesday night, which was reportedly the size of a small nuke, has left at least 5,000 people were wounded in the explosion which also left 300,000 homeless and caused damage estimated at up to $5billion, with half of Beirut's buildings affected
The explosion on Tuesday night, which was reportedly the size of a small nuke, has left at least 5,000 people were wounded in the explosion which also left 300,000 homeless and caused damage estimated at up to $5billion, with half of Beirut's buildings affected
The blast threatens to reignite anti-government protests in Lebanon that have been ongoing since last year amid allegations of entrenched incompetence and corruption (aftermath of the blast pictured)
The blast threatens to reignite anti-government protests in Lebanon that have been ongoing since last year amid allegations of entrenched incompetence and corruption (aftermath of the blast pictured)
Lebanon is highly dependent on imports, and the destruction of the port, along with the worsening cash crisis, have raised fears of shortages. Pictured: Buildings demolished in the explosion at the port of Beirut
Lebanon is highly dependent on imports, and the destruction of the port, along with the worsening cash crisis, have raised fears of shortages. Pictured: Buildings demolished in the explosion at the port of Beirut
Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed those responsible will 'pay the price' as he declared a two-week state of emergency to deal with the crisis, urging all world leaders and 'friends of Lebanon' to donate aid to the country, adding: 'We are witnessing a real catastrophe.' 
Documents published online suggested it could be given to the army or sold to an explosives company, but did not receive any replies, leaving the explosive cargo languishing in the now destroyed port area of the capital.
Ammonium nitrate is a chemical used in fertiliser bombs and is widely used by the construction industry but also by insurgent groups such as the Taliban and the IRA for improvised explosives. 
Authorities have cordoned off the port itself, where the blast left a crater 200 yards across and shredded a large grain silo, emptying its contents into the rubble. Estimates suggested about 85 per cent of the country's grain was stored there.
Lebanon is highly dependent on imports, and the destruction of the port, along with the worsening cash crisis, have raised fears of shortages. 
Other countries, including Greece, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey and the European Union, have dispatched medical supplies, humanitarian aid and search-and-rescue teams. 
It comes after a tragic photo emerged showing the final moments of firefighters sent to tackle a blaze at Warehouse 12 in Beirut's port before the chemicals stored inside exploded with the force of a small nuke.
The image - verified by MailOnline - shows firefighters trying to pry the lock off a door beneath a sign that reads 'entrance 12', along with signs warning of hazardous chemicals inside. 
The person who took the photo has been confirmed dead with the photo found on his phone, while Beirut's governor has said 10 firefighters are missing after the blast, sparked when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the warehouse caught fire. 
The image was being widely-circulated on Arab-language twitter accounts on Wednesday as people paid tribute to the firefighters, who are assumed to have perished. 
Jo Noon, Methal Hawwa and Najib Hati were part of a 10-person rapid response team. Nine of them are still missing while one female colleague, 25-year-old Sahar Faris, has been confirmed dead. 
Ms Faris, who has since been dubbed 'the bride of Beirut' on social media, was engaged to be married in June next year. Yesterday, her fiancĂ©, Gilbert Karaan, posted a tribute saying, 'you broke my back, you broke my heart'.
It comes after a tragic photo emerged showing the final moments of firefighters sent to tackle a blaze at Warehouse 12 in Beirut's port before the chemicals stored inside exploded with the force of a small nuke
It comes after a tragic photo emerged showing the final moments of firefighters sent to tackle a blaze at Warehouse 12 in Beirut's port before the chemicals stored inside exploded with the force of a small nuke 
Video taken of the area around the same time shows fire crews at the scene along with heavy grey sliding doors. Beirut's governor has confirmed that 10 firefighters are missing following the blast
Video taken of the area around the same time shows fire crews at the scene along with heavy grey sliding doors. Beirut's governor has confirmed that 10 firefighters are missing following the blast
The burning warehouses
The moment of the explosion
More footage of the burning warehouses taken from the roof of the building opposite shows the same warehouses on fire before they are blown to smithereens
Beirut wedding interrupted by explosion that rocked the city
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An image of the warehouse taken some time before the blast shows the same sliding doors and white patch - though without writing on it - along with what appear to be the chemicals that exploded stored inside
An image of the warehouse taken some time before the blast shows the same sliding doors and white patch - though without writing on it - along with what appear to be the chemicals that exploded stored inside
Sahar Fares, who was one of the 10-person rapid response team, has been confirmed as killed during the blast and has since been dubbed 'the bride of Beirut' on social media
Sahar Fares, who was one of the 10-person rapid response team, has been confirmed as killed during the blast and has since been dubbed 'the bride of Beirut' on social media
The ten firefighters who were first on the scene. All of them are missing, with one, Sahar Fares, top centre, confirmed dead. Top left to right: Ralf Mallahi, Sarah Faris, Najib Hati. Middle left to right: Ellie Khuzami, Charbel Hati, Jo Noon, Charbel Karam. Bottom left to right: Jo Bou Saab, Methal Hawwa, Rami Kaaki
The ten firefighters who were first on the scene. All of them are missing, with one, Sahar Fares, top centre, confirmed dead. Top left to right: Ralf Mallahi, Sarah Faris, Najib Hati. Middle left to right: Ellie Khuzami, Charbel Hati, Jo Noon, Charbel Karam. Bottom left to right: Jo Bou Saab, Methal Hawwa, Rami Kaaki

The three firemen were photographed in an iconic picture putting their lives on the line to prevent the catastrophe. One of them, Najib Hati, did not even have time to put on his uniform.
They had been dispatched with another colleague, thought to be Ms Faris, from the fire station in La Quarantaine, northeastern Beirut, in an emergency response vehicle and were first on the scene, fire chiefs said.
The six other firefighters followed in a fire engine. 'As the fire service, we have the authority to open any door without the approval of any ministry or military,' a fire service official, who asked not to be named, said.
'When the smoke first started gathering, we sent a unit of 10 people. Six were in the fire engine and four in the emergency response car. The three men in the famous photograph were first on the scene trying to unlock the door to Warehouse 12.
'Following them were the colleagues in the other vehicles. The blast hit all of them. Nine are still missing and one, Sahar Faris, has been found and declared dead. Her family mourned here yesterday. Her fiancĂ© is devastated.' 
Details from the image - such as the heavy grey sliding doors and white sign with Arabic writing - were also visible in a video taken outside the flaming warehouses as a fire, thought to have been sparked by a welder, took hold.
The video shows firefighters in similar uniforms to those seen in the photo as they assess the scene, seemingly unaware of the danger.
More footage taken from the roof of a building across the street shows identical warehouse buildings being consumed by smoke and flames, along with similar-looking signs on the warehouse doors.
That footage can be verified as genuine because it features a large metal support strut, that can be seen on the roof of a building opposite the warehouse in Google Satellite images. 
Meanwhile a photo taken of the warehouse some time ago shows the same grey sliding doors, high square windows and white sign, though without an writing on it. That photo also purports to show sacks filled with ammonium nitrate that caused the explosion. 
The second video also features other corroborating details seen in multiple pieces of footage from around Beirut, such as small explosions from what appear to be fireworks moments before the main blast takes place.
That video also features the moment the blast happens, obliterating the warehouse, badly damaging grain silos opposite, and sending out a shockwave that flattened nearby buildings and blew out windows across the city.
Hero Methal Hawwa, front left, is seen here posing with fellow firefighters in this group photograph
Hero Methal Hawwa, front left, is seen here posing with fellow firefighters in this group photograph
2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored within the burning warehouse exploded shortly after the images and footage were taken, leaving behind little more than a watery hole in the ground
2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored within the burning warehouse exploded shortly after the images and footage were taken, leaving behind little more than a watery hole in the ground
The blast sent out a shockwave that pulverized nearby warehouses (pictured), shredded the interior of nearby buildings, and blew out glass panes across the city
The blast sent out a shockwave that pulverized nearby warehouses (pictured), shredded the interior of nearby buildings, and blew out glass panes across the city
An aerial image showing the devastation caused to Beirut's port by the blast, with costs estimated at up to $5billion
An aerial image showing the devastation caused to Beirut's port by the blast, with costs estimated at up to $5billion
The blast almost completely destroyed the port along with a grain silo (pictured centre), which were an economic lifeline for Lebanon which was already suffering through an economic crisis
The blast almost completely destroyed the port along with a grain silo (pictured centre), which were an economic lifeline for Lebanon which was already suffering through an economic crisis

1 comment:

  1. I would like to get a professional opinion. Can Ammonium Nitrate explode by itself or does it have to have something like diesel fuel mixed into it in-order to become explosive? I always thought Ammonium Nitrate was an oxidizer and need a fuel to be explosive.

    ReplyDelete