Lebanon health minister: Cabinet resigns over Beirut blast

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Lebanon health minister: Cabinet resigns over Beirut blast

Monday, August 10, 2020

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BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) — Lebanon's Cabinet has resigned over last week's devastating blast at the Beirut port, the health minister said, a decision that was made under pressure as several ministers quit or expressed their intention to step down.

The minister, Hamad Hassan, spoke with reporters at the end of a Cabinet meeting on Monday, which came after two days of demonstrations over the weekend that saw clashes with security forces firing tear gas at protesters.

"The whole government resigned," Hamad said. 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 on August 4 which decimated Beirut port and devastated large parts of the city has brought a new wave of 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 firing tear gas at protesters.

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. Losses from the blast are estimated to be between US$10 billion to US$15 billion, and nearly 300,000 people were left homeless in the immediate aftermath.

Prime Minister Diab was expected to address the nation later Monday. His Cabinet now assumes caretaker role until a new government is formed.


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