Second day of protests as anger over Beirut explosion grows: Live

Two government ministers resign as world leaders pledge hundreds of millions of dollars at emergency donor conference.

Demonstrators throw rocks during a protest following Tuesday''s blast, in Beirut, Lebanon August 9, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
  • International leaders joined a virtual donor conference led by France and the United Nations in the aftermath of the devastating explosion at the Beirut port, pledging nearly $300m in humanitarian assistance that will be “directly delivered to the Lebanese population”.

  • The event came as angry protesters took to the streets of the Lebanese capital for a second consecutive day on Sunday, clashing with security forces who fired tear gas to disperse them.

  • Lebanon’s Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad announced her resignation, saying Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government failed to live up to the aspirations of the people. Shortly after, Environment Minister Damianos Kattar also resigned from his post.

  • At least 158 people were killed in Tuesday’s explosion and more than 6,000 others were wounded.

INTERACTIVE: Beirut explosion map

Here are the latest updates:

Sunday, August 9

20:37 GMT – IMF chief renews call for reforms

Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), warned Lebanon again it would not get any loans from the institution unless it reformed its government.

“Current and future generations of Lebanese must not be saddled with more debts than they can ever repay,” she said during the pledging conference.

That is why she said the IMF requires “debt sustainability as a condition for lending”, adding that “the financial system must be solvent”, too.

19:32 GMT –  Environment minister steps down

Environment Minister Damianos Kattar said in a statement he was stepping down, becoming the second minister to quit over the explosion.

“In light of the enormous catastrophe … I have decided to hand in my resignation from government,” Kattar said, adding he had lost hope in a “sterile regime that botched several opportunities”.

19:21 GMT – Will explosion cause a humanitarian disaster?

Lebanon was in a dire state even before the enormous explosion which wrecked much of Beirut.

The government is bankrupt, the currency is almost worthless and millions of Lebanese are jobless. The explosion made things worse by destroying the main port for a nation heavily reliant on food imports.

Some 300,000 people made homeless in Beirut have received little help from the government. Lebanon is also home to 1.5 million Syrian refugees.

How will aid organisations deal with the challenge?

Find out more here or watch Inside Story below.

18:14 GMT – Aid summit raises $300m to be given ‘directly’ to people

A host of nations have pledged nearly $300m in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon at a conference aimed at rallying international support for the crisis-hit country.

The sums will be routed through the UN, international organisations and NGOs, rather than the Lebanese government – in line with the demands of large swaths of the Lebanese public who fear the funds would be lost to corruption.

Read more here.

Beirut: Corruption fears persist amid foreign donation offers

16:07 GMT – Demonstrators hurl stones at police in second day of protests

Protesters hurled rocks at security forces blocking a road near Lebanon’s parliament in a second day of protests against the government.

Reuters news agency reported that hundreds were converging on a main square where thousands of Lebanese protested on Saturday against a political elite they blame for the country’s economic and political woes.

“We want to destroy and kill the government. They gave us no jobs nor rights,” said Nissan Ghrawi, a 19-year old unemployed demonstrator. 

On Saturday, more than 700 protesters were wounded in clashes with riot police who used tear gas and live bullets in a bid to disperse crowds.

15:56 GMT – Trump calls for Lebanon to hold ‘transparent investigation’ into blast

US President Donald Trump called for Lebanon to conduct a “full and transparent investigation” into the huge explosion that hit Beirut, and expressed his support for protests demanding reform in the country.

Trump “urged the Government of Lebanon to conduct a full and transparent investigation, in which the United States stands ready to assist,” according to the White House, after he participated in a virtual donor conference.

“The President called for calm in Lebanon and acknowledged the legitimate calls of peaceful protesters for transparency, reform, and accountability,” the White House added.

15:46 GMT – Michel Moawad becomes latest MP to resign from parliament 

MP Michel Moawad is the latest to resign from the Lebanese parliament, bringing the total number of parliamentarians who stepped down after the deadly blast to seven.

“Enough is enough … I represent the entire Lebanese nation according to the constitution, and this means that I represent the martyrs and the wounded who fell in the Beirut port massacre and those who are still missing,” Moawad said in a series of tweets.

“I’ve listened to your tears and to your pain … You [the people] are the source of authority,” he wrote.

15:15 GMT – EU latest funding is to ‘help address immediate needs’

The latest funding by the European Commission to Lebanon was to “help address the immediate needs of those affected by the deadly explosion in Beirut on 4 August”, said a commission statement.

“As needs rise we are providing humanitarian support to hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people,” commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said in the statement.     

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen put up 33m euros funding in a phone call on Thursday with the Lebanese President Michel Aoun. The EU had earlier pledged 33m euros in aid to Lebanon. 

The new funding will be channelled to UN agencies and NGOs and will be strictly monitored, the statement added.

14:57 GMT – Pledges made at international donor conference

Here are a list of countries that have pledged to provide Lebanon with financial aid at the donor summit co-hosted by France and UN.

– Qatar, pledged $50m

– France, pledged 50m euros ($58.9m)

– Germany, pledged $20m 

– Kuwait, pledged $41m

– European Commission, pledged 63m euros ($74.2m)

– Cyprus, pledged 5m euros ($5.89m) 

14:33 GMT – Lebanese army says hope of finding more survivors is fading 

The Lebanese army said that hope was fading of finding more survivors from Tuesday’s catastrophic explosion at the port of Beirut.

“After three days of search and rescue operations we can say we have finished the first phase, which involved the possibility of finding survivors,” Colonel Roger Khoury told a press conference.  

“As technicians working on the ground, we can say we have fading hopes of finding survivors,” added Khoury, who heads a team of military technicians operating at the blast site.

The health ministry said 21 people were still missing following the explosion, killing at least 158 people and injuring about 6,000.

Hello, this is Farah Najjar taking over from my colleague Arwa Ibrahim.

12:20 GMT – Macron tells Lebanon donor conference: “We must act quickly”

World powers owe the Lebanese people support after a massive blast devastated the country’s capital, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

“We must act quickly and efficiently so that this aid goes directly to where it is needed,” Macron said in opening remarks to a UN-backed donor conference he was hosting by video link. “Lebanon’s future is at stake.”

The president said the offer of assistance included support for an impartial, credible and independent inquiry into the August 4 port explosion.

The explosion gutted entire neighbourhoods, leaving 250,000 people homeless, razing businesses and destroying critical grain supplies.

Rebuilding Beirut will likely run into the billions of dollars. Economists forecast the blast could wipe up to 25 percent off of the country’s GDP.

Hundreds of thousands left homeless after Beirut explosion

12:06 GMT – Lebanese in Chile send thoughts, donate to Beirut

In Chile, members of the Lebanese Union in Chile lit candles, “for Lebanon” in a show of virtual solidarity.

“We watched in desperation, I think that is the word, when we saw the strength of the pictures. In my head I tried to imagine what are the consequences that the explosion left behind,” says Nissrin Esber, president of the union.

The explosion that rocked Beirut last week has had far-reaching ripples, including in the country’s large diaspora communities.

There are estimated to be at least 90,000 Chileans claiming Lebanese descent.

Drone footage shows devastating Beirut blast aftermath

11:37 GMT – Ex-Lebanon premier denies knowledge of Beirut shipment

Former Lebanese premier Tammam Salam has denied receiving correspondence or information about the arrival of a hazardous chemical materials shipment in Beirut, which caused the deadly blast in the capital on Tuesday.

In a statement, Salam’s media office said reports alleging that he was aware of the arrival of a ship carrying chemical materials to Beirut were “false and bare of truth”.

Earlier, media reports suggested that a Lebanese court had ordered the ship to unload its cargo at the Beirut port when Salam was the prime minister.

He held the post between February 2014 to December 2016.

10:56 GMT – Lebanese president condemns calls for international probe into blast

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said that demands for an international investigation into Tuesday’s deadly blast at the port of Beirut aimed at “wasting time”.

“The judiciary should be swift to confirm who is a criminal and who is innocent [with regards to the blast],” said Aoun in a statement released by his office and shared over Twitter.

10:29 GMT – Sixth lawmaker resigns from Lebanon’s parliament

Independent member of parliament Nehmat Freim has stepped down, making her the sixth lawmaker to quit a position in parliament since Tuesday’s deadly blast.

09:50 GMT – Furious Lebanese vow new protests over deadly mega-blast

Lebanese protesters enraged by official negligence blamed for Beirut’s enormous and deadly explosion vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

“Prepare the gallows because our anger doesn’t end in one day,” warned one message circulating on social media in response to Tuesday’s earthquake-strength blast of a huge pile of industrial chemicals.

08:42 GMT – Lebanon’s information minister steps down in first gov’t resignation over blast

Lebanon information minister Manal Abdel Samad announced her resignation, saying Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government failed to live up to the aspirations of the Lebanese people. 

“I want to apologise to the Lebanese people, whose aspirations we were unable to fulfil due to the difficulty of the challenges facing us,” she said in a short statement from the ministry. 

Abdel Samad said she had tried in Diab’s government to address the demands of an unprecedented uprising that rocked the country last October, “but change remained far”. 

Abdel Samad added the government did not live up to her aspirations and she was resigning out of respect for those killed, injured and missing after the massive Beirut explosion earlier this week, “and in response to the people’s demand for change”. 

Abdel Samad is the second minister to resign from Diab’s government in one week, after Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned on Monday. 

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad attends a news conference, at the presidential palace in Baabda
Lebanon’s former Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad at the presidential palace in Baabda [File: Dalati Nohra/Reuters]

08:01 GMT – Lebanon’s Maronite patriarch says government must quit as it cannot change

Lebanon’s Christian Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai called on the cabinet to resign as it cannot “change the way it governs” the country and help it to recover from Tuesday’s catastrophic explosion.

07:23 GMT – Beirut port blast crater 43 metres deep, says security official

The huge ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut’s port that devastated much of the city left a crater 43 metres (141 feet) deep, a security official said.

“The explosion in the port left a crater 43 meters deep” on Tuesday, the official told AFP, citing reports by French experts conducting an assessment of the disaster area.

CCTV footage shows moment blast hits Beirut hospital

06:41 GMT – German aid and relief supplies arrive in Beirut

About 43 tonnes of relief supplies from the German Red Cross arrived in Beirut overnight, the German ambassador to Lebanon said over Twitter. 

The aid, received by the Lebanese Red Cross, included medicine, first aid and protective equipment. 

05:55 GMT – France’s Macron to host donor conference for blast-stricken Lebanon

French President Emmanuel Macron will host US President Donald Trump and other political leaders for a UN-endorsed donors’ conference by video to raise emergency relief for Lebanon following this week’s massive explosion in Beirut.

Trump will participate in the video-link conference.

A Macron aide declined on Saturday to set a target for the conference. Emergency aid was needed for reconstruction, food aid, medical equipment and schools and hospitals, the official said.

Representatives of Britain, the European Union, China, Russia, Egypt and Jordan are expected to join the conference, hosted by Macron from his summer retreat on the French Riviera.

Israel and Iran will not take part, the Elysee Palace official said.

Moment Beirut blast rips through city

05:15 GMT – Independent candidates face uphill battle in Lebanon elections

Independent candidates face an uphill battle in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, which Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced on Saturday.

Al Jazeera correspondent Zeina Khodr said that there are concerns that the sectarian-based political system in the country, as well as it’s electoral law “won’t give independent candidates a chance”.

“It will be a long battle for change” in Lebanon, she wrote on social media on Sunday.

03:24 GMT – South Korea extends $1m emergency aid to Lebanon

South Korea has announced that it is extending a $1m emergency aid package to Lebanon, following the devastating blast that killed more than 100 people and displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Beirut.

Even before the disaster struck on Tuesday, Lebanon has already been facing a severe economic slump made worse by the coronavirus outbreak.

02:30 GMT – As many as 10,000 protesters hit Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square

As many as 10,000 protesters had gathered in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square on Saturday, some throwing stones at police, according to reports and social media posts.

Police fired tear gas when some protesters tried to break through the barrier blocking a street leading to parliament, a Reuters journalist said.

Police confirmed shots and rubber bullets had been fired. It was not immediately clear who fired the shots. Riot police shot dozens of tear gas canisters at protesters, who hit back with firecrackers and stones.^tfw

00:10 GMT – Lebanese authorities accused of excessive use of force

At least 14 journalists and other media workers have been attacked while covering the latest protests in Lebanon, according to a journalist for the independent news website, The Public Source.

Authorities have been accused of using excessive force against the protesters, who were demonstrating against government inaction following the deadly blast in Beirut on Tuesday.

Saturday, August 8

23:35 GMT – Hundreds injured during demonstrations in Beirut  

More than 728 people have been wounded following protests in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, in response to the deadly blast that killed at least 158 people on Tuesday. 

Protesters have been demanding action from the government amid the economic crisis the country is facing even before the disaster struck.

18:59 GMT – Lebanese army expelling protesters from foreign ministry  

The Lebanese army drove out a group of protesters who had taken over the foreign ministry building in central Beirut hours earlier.

The demonstrators, led by retired army officers, had stormed the building and declared it the “headquarters of the revolution”, but they were expelled three hours later when large army reinforcements muscled in.

18:38 GMT – US says it supports right of Lebanese to peaceful protest, urges political reforms

The US government supports Lebanese demonstrators’ right to peaceful protest and urges all involved to refrain from violence, the US Embassy in Beirut said.

The embassy also said in a tweet that the Lebanese people “deserve to have leaders who listen to them and change course to respond to popular demands for transparency and accountability”.

18:13 GMT – Army and protesters clash near Beirut’s main highway 

Army soldiers and protesters clashed by Beirut’s main ring road near the city centre amid continuing anti-government rallies, an Al Jazeera reporter said.

The army attacked protesters with sticks, beating a large number of them, while demonstrators responded by throwing rocks at the troops.

“Take off the suit and come stand with us, then you can wear it again with honour,” a protester said as a number of them confronted a line of soldiers. 

“Tell us what you get from being with them? We really don’t understand it, why are you doing this to us?”

Beirut protests
Riot police used excessive amounts of tear gas in a bid to disperse protesters trying to break through a barrier leading to the parliament building [Tamara Saade/Al Jazeera]

16:57 GMT – Latest Lebanese Red Cross figures from protest site

 – At least 238 protesters have been wounded in central Beirut;

– 63 protesters have been transported to nearby hospitals;

– 175 others have been treated at the scene of the protests.

16:38 GMT – Protesters storm Association of Banks HQ, energy ministry

A group of protesters have stormed Lebanon’s Association of Banks, as well as the Lebanese energy ministry as part of their attempt to take over the country’s ministries.

16:18 GMT – Policeman killed in clashes with demonstrators in Beirut, police says

A Lebanese policeman was killed in clashes with demonstrators in central Beirut, a police spokesman said.

The protests against the ruling political establishment have also left more than 100 people injured and dozens hospitalised.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies