Lebanon crisis timeline: From Beirut blast to gov’t’s resignation

The deadly August 4 explosion pushed the country further to the brink, forcing PM Diab’s government to quit.

Lebanon’s prime minister has announced his government’s resignation, less than a week after a huge explosion tore through capital Beirut, causing unprecedented public outrage.

The blast at Beirut’s port on August 4 killed at least 171 people, with some 30 others missing and more than 6,000 wounded. Anger over the incident spilled on to the streets with thousands demanding major reforms in the country.

For many common Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance.

On Monday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab quit along with his cabinet, saying the blast was the result of “endemic corruption” in Lebanon.

Here is a timeline of how the events unfolded:

August 4 

A fire is reported at Beirut’s only port, leading to the explosion that killed dozens – many other dead were buried in rubble and found later – and destroyed properties and buildings in the vicinity and several kilometres away.

The explosion displaced some 300,000 people, leaving the city with billions of dollars in damage.

Massive Explosion Near Port Area Of Beirut
Firefighters at the port after the explosion on August 4, 2020, in Beirut, Lebanon [File: Fadel Itani/NurPhoto/Getty Images]

August 5 

Diab declares a two-week state of emergency in Beirut, effectively giving the military full powers to tackle what was the worst such accident in Lebanon’s history.

Lebanon’s High Defence Council, which brings together the president and all major security agencies, declares Beirut a disaster-stricken city.

Diab reveals the port contained almost 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored for six years after a ship brought it in 2013.

August 6 

French President Emmanuel Macron visits the scene of the blast in Beirut, promising he would convene an international conference with the European Union, the United States and regional countries to gather the much-needed humanitarian aid.

Macron warns 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”.

Protests break out across Lebanon as angry demonstrators demand “revenge” over the deadly explosion.

Meanwhile, Judge Fadi Akiki, a government representative at Lebanon’s military court, says 16 port employees were arrested over the incident.

August 7 

The death toll from the explosion rises to 157 and 5,000 wounded, according to the Lebanese officials.

Boris Prokoshev, the former captain of the ship that brought almost 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to Beirut, says Lebanese authorities were “very well” aware of the dangers posed by the vessel’s cargo.

The EU releases 33 million euros ($38m) for Lebanon to cover immediate costs and emergency services.

August 8

Prime Minister Diab calls for early elections, saying it was the only way out of the country’s crisis. He says he will introduce a draft bill proposing early polls.

Lebanon’s Kataeb Party, a Christian group which opposed the Hezbollah-backed government, announces the resignation of three of its MPs from parliament.

Protesters storm various government buildings in Beirut, including the foreign ministry, as riot police fire tear gas to break up the crowds.

More than 700 people reportedly wounded in the protests and one policeman killed.

August 9

International leaders join a virtual donor conference led by France and the United Nations, pledging nearly $300m in humanitarian assistance that will be “directly delivered to the Lebanese population”.

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad submits her resignation, saying the country had reached “a point of no return” and that Diab’s government had failed to live up to people’s expectations.

She becomes the first among cabinet ministers to quit over the tragedy. Later that day, Environment Minister Damianos Kattar also resigns from his post.

August 10

Iran says other countries should refrain from politicising the Beirut blast and demanded that the US should lift sanctions against Lebanon.

The head of the UN food agency says he was “very, very concerned” Lebanon could run out of bread in less than three weeks because 85 percent of the country’s grain came through Beirut’s devastated port.

Towards the end of the day, Diab announces his government’s resignation in a televised address, in which he says he was taking “a step back” so he could stand with the people “and fight the battle for change alongside them”.

President Michel Aoun accepted the resignation and asked Diab to continue in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.

Lebanese PM Announces Resignation Of His Government After Port Explosion
A man throws a tear gas canister back at the security forces who fired it into the crowd during anti-government protests in Beirut [Daniel Carde/Getty Images]
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies