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Lebanon Cabinet resigns over Beirut blast that left 160 dead, says Health Minister

BEIRUT: Lebanon Cabinet on Monday (August 10) resigned over last week’s devastating explosion at the Beirut port which left 160 people dead and almost 6,000 injured.

The country’s health minister Hamad Hassan was quoted by AP reporters as saying, “The whole government resigned.” He added that Prime Minister Hassan Diab will head to the presidential palace to hand over the resignation in the name of all the ministers. 

The massive blast at Beirut port on August 4 devastated large parts of the city. The explosion is believed to have been caused by a fire that ignited a 2,750-ton stockpile of explosive ammonium nitrate. The material had been stored at the port since 2013 with few safeguards despite numerous warnings of the danger.

The result was a disaster Lebanese blame squarely on their leadership’s corruption and neglect. The blast killed at least 160 people and wounded about 6,000, in addition to destroying the country’s main port and damaging large parts of the capital.

State Security had compiled a report about the dangers of storing the material at the port and sent a copy to the offices of the president and prime minister on July 20. The investigation is focused on how the ammonium nitrate came to be stored at the port and why nothing was done about it.

About 20 people have been detained over the blast, including the head of Lebanon’s customs department and his predecessor, as well as the head of the port. Dozens of people have been questioned, including two former Cabinet ministers, according to government officials.

The incident led to public outrage at the government and Lebanon’s long-entrenched ruling class. Protests were planned outside the government headquarters to coincide with the Cabinet meeting after large demonstrations over the weekend that saw clashes with security forces resorting to firing tear gas to control the unruly mob. 

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