Beirut holds vigil one week after devastating blast

People in the Lebanese capital Beirut yesterday gathered and observed a minute’s silence in honour of those who died in last week’s devastating blast.

The commemoration took place near the ruins of the city’s port, with the Muslim call to prayer broadcast alongside church bells at 6:08pm local time (3:08pm GMT) – the exact moment when a stockpile of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate ignited.

The explosion has left over 200 dead, more than 6,000 injured, and destroyed large parts of the city, leaving more than 300,000 people homeless.

Officials believe the blast, which was felt as far away as Cyprus, was caused by ammonium nitrate which had been stored improperly at the port for six years. The chemical is usually used to make bombs.

According to Reuters, Director General of Beirut Customs, Badri Daher, reportedly wrote to Lebanon’s “judge of urgent matters” in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 warning of the danger of storing such items at the port and asking for the substance to be re-exported or sold off.

For many Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis since the collapse of the economy last year, coupled with corruption and a dysfunctional government.

READ: Over 100,000 lost their jobs in tourism sector after Beirut port blast

Protesters have since been demanding the complete overhaul of the political system.

On Monday Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government resigned in response to mass protests in the country, but demonstrators fear this may only lead to a reshuffle of the same faces in government and no real change in authority. They have called for a complete overhaul of the country’s political system.