Lebanon’s Government dissolved in wake of Beirut explosion as death toll rises

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Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his Government have resigned in the wake of the deadly blast that ripped through Beirut last week.

The announcement comes on the third day of demonstrations in the capital, where protesters have again hurled rocks and dodged tear gas in clashes with security forces.

The city’s Governor says more than 200 people are now believed to have been killed as a result of the August 4 blast, which occurred when a stockpile of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded.

Many Lebanese blamed the Government for allowing the material to be stored in Beirut’s port, and are angry at what they regard as corruption in the country’s political establishment.

The explosion destroyed swathes of the bustling Mediterranean capital, injured over 6,000 people and compounded months of political and economic meltdowns in Lebanon.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab speaks at a podium
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab is stepping down following the Beirut port explosion last week.(AP: Lebanese Government/Dalati Nohra)

The cabinet, formed in January with the backing of the powerful Hezbollah group and its allies, met earlier on Monday (local time), with many ministers wanting to resign, according to ministerial and political sources.

Health Minister Hamad Hasan told Reuters after the meeting that Mr Diab would announce the resignation of the entire cabinet.

Lebanese people sick of corruption

For many ordinary Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, endemic corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance, and they have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.

The information and environment ministers quit on Sunday as well as several lawmakers, and the justice minister followed them out the door on Monday.

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The massive explosion was captured on phones by multiple people.

Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni, a key negotiator with the IMF over a rescue plan to help Lebanon exit a financial crisis, prepared his resignation letter and brought it with him to the cabinet meeting, a source close to him and local media said.

Lebanon’s President, Michel Aoun, had previously said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port.

Mr Aoun later said the investigation would consider whether the cause was external interference as well as negligence or an accident.

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Drone footage shows extent of Beirut destruction

Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level unaccountability.

Protesters accused the political elite of siphoning off state resources for their own benefit.

ABC/Wires

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