World powers owe the Lebanese people support after a massive warehouse explosion devastated the country’s capital, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday.
“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 Aug. 4 port explosion that killed at least 158 people.
In a separate development, Lebanon’s Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad announced her resignation on Sunday, citing the explosion and the failure of the government to carry out reforms.
She also apologized to the Lebanese people and said the government did not live up to their expectations.
The blast at the portside warehouse, containing ammonium nitrate, caused $ 10 billion to $ 15 billion US in damage, according to Beirut’s governor. It also killed more than 150 people, left thousands more wounded and damaged 6,200 buildings.
Some Lebanese called on Sunday for a sustained uprising to topple their leaders amid public fury over the disaster, and the country’s top Christian Maronite cleric said the cabinet should resign.
Protesters have called on the government to quit over what they say was negligence that allowed 2,750 tonnes of explosive ammonium nitrate to be stored at the city’s port since 2014.
WATCH | Lebanon protesters met with tear gas:
Anger boiled over into violence scenes in central Beirut on Saturday.
Christian Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai said the cabinet should resign if it cannot “change the way it governs.”
“The resignation of an MP or a minister is not enough … the whole government should resign if it is unable to help the country recover,” he said in his Sunday sermon.
Dozens of people were injured in Saturday’s protests, the biggest since October when thousands of people took to the streets in protests against corruption, bad governance and mismanagement.
PHOTOS | Protesters clash with security forces amid unrest over deadly Beirut blast:
About 10,000 people gathered at Martyrs’ Square, which was transformed into a battle zone in the evening between police and protesters who tried to break down a barrier along a road leading to parliament. Some demonstrators stormed government ministries and the Association of Lebanese Banks.
Demonstrators defied dozens of tear gas canisters fired at them and hurled stones and firecrackers at riot police, some of whom were carried away to ambulances. One policeman was killed.
The Red Cross said it had treated 117 people for injuries on the scene on Saturday while another 55 were taken to hospital.
WATCH | Why Lebanese might fear aid channelled through government:
Soldiers in vehicles mounted with machine guns were stationed beside Martyrs’ Square on Sunday.
“People should sleep in the streets and demonstrate against the government until it falls,” said lawyer Maya Habli, as she surveyed the demolished port where the blast erupted.
Among the countries already offering assistance to Lebanon:
- Britain has offered a 5 million pound ($ 8.7 million Cdn) aid package including search and rescue help and expert medical support. The Royal Navy’s HMS Enterprise will help assess damage.
- Iran is sending nine tonnes of food, as well as medicine, medical equipment, medical personnel and a field hospital, according to Iranian media.
- Iraq is sending a plane with emergency medical aid and fuel aid. Twenty-two tanker trucks carrying 800,000 litres of gasoil arrived on Saturday at the Lebanese border.
- Norway has pledged 40 tonnes of medical equipment and 25 million Norwegian crowns ($ 3.73 million Cdn) in financial help.
- Qatar dispatched the first of four planned flights on Wednesday with medical aid, and will deliver two field hospitals of 500 beds each, with respirators and other medical supplies.
- The U.S. has pledged more than $ 17 million US in initial disaster aid for Lebanon, the U.S. Embassy said on Friday.
- The Canadian government announced Wednesday that it was contributing up to $ 5 million Cdn in humanitarian aid to Lebanon, including $ 1.5 million that will be directed to the Lebanese Red Cross to provide emergency medical services, shelter and food.
WATCH | Worst damage revealed at Beirut port: