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Lebanon marks one week since deadly Beirut explosion

Last Updated Aug 11, 2020 at 8:27 am PDT

A smoke from a massive explosion is seen in in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. Massive explosions rocked downtown Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Witnesses saw many people injured by flying glass and debris. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Summary

Tuesday marks one week since the deadly blast at Beirut's port

Explosion flattened much of Lebanon's main port, damaged buildings in surrounding areas, left thousands dead, hurt

The explosion has fueled popular outrage against the country's top political leaders and security agencies

BEIRUT — A nation still burying its dead Tuesday marked a week since the explosion in Beirut that flattened much of the Lebanese capital’s port, damaged buildings and left thousands of people dead and injured.

Several events, including a moment of silence at 6:08 p.m. local time when the blast happened, were planned to commemorate the explosion. It was caused by the ignition of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been sitting at Beirut port for more than six years. A candlelight vigil was also planned for later Monday.

The explosion has fueled popular outrage against the country’s top political leaders and security agencies, and led to the resignation of the government on Monday. In the wake of the disaster, documents have come to light that show that top Lebanese officials knew about the existence of the stockpile in the heart of Beirut near residential areas, and did nothing about it.

People clash with police during a protest against the political elites and the government after last week’s deadly explosion at Beirut port which devastated large parts of the capital in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

It still wasn’t clear what caused the fire in a port warehouse that triggered the explosion of the chemicals, which created a shockwave so powerful it was felt as far away as the island of Cyprus more than 200 kilometres (180 miles) across the Mediterranean.

“From one minute to the next, the world changed for people in Beirut,” said Basma Tabaja, deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s delegation in Lebanon on Tuesday.

The explosion, which obliterated the capital’s port, damaged thousands of apartments and offices in the capital and came on top of an unprecedented economic and financial crisis the country the country has been mired in since late last year, compounding the nation’s collective distress.

A drone picture shows the scene of an explosion at the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. At least 160 people were killed and thousands were injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Meanwhile, behind the scenes contacts got underway Tuesday for the formation of a new government, a day after Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned. Diab’s government, which was supported by the militant group Hezbollah and its allies, unraveled after the deadly blast, with three ministers announcing they were quitting.

Diab’s government was formed after his predecessor, Saad Hariri, stepped down in October in response to anti-government demonstrations over endemic corruption. It took months of bickering among the leadership factions before they settled on Diab.

Lebanese have demanded an independent Cabinet not backed by any of the political political parties they blame for the mess they are in. Many are also calling for an independent investigation into the port explosion, saying they had zero trust in a local probe.

Lebanese officials have rejected an international investigation. The government, in the last decision it made before resigning Monday, referred the case to the Supreme Judicial Council, Lebanon’s top judicial body, which handles crimes infringing on Lebanon’s national security as well as political and state security crimes.