Protesters gather in Beirut to vent rage over explosion

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - As Beirut mourned its dead and grappled with the scale of rebuilding after this week's massive blast, some Lebanese angered by their government's response called on foreign states on Saturday to topple their leaders and run the country.

Several hundred protesters began gathering in Martyrs' Square in the city centre for a demonstration to criticise the government's handling of the biggest explosion in Beirut's history. The blast in the port killed 154 people, injured 5,000 and destroyed a swathe of the city.

The protesters had mock wooden scaffolds with nooses, and one placard read: "Step down or hang".

The government has promised to hold those responsible to account.

Some residents, struggling to clean up shattered homes, complain the government they see as corrupt – there had been months of protests against its handling of a deep economic crisis before this week's disaster – has let them down again.

Lisa Hammoud, 20, protester. Bassam ZaaZaa for The National 

"We are fed up," protestor Nour Hatoum told The National.

"We are fed up with this corrupt government. Regardless of everything that happened a few days ago, as well as the forever corruption, we don't even have the minimum [we need] here."

"We are fed up," protestor Nour Hatoum told The National.

"We are fed up with this corrupt government. Regardless of everything that happened a few days ago, as well as the forever corruption, we don't even have the minimum [we need] here."

Lisa Hammoud, 20, a student said she was protesting because she wants a "better future" for her, her family and her friends.

"I want to live here, I want to make a better Lebanon. And I will," she said, referring to the common-place emigration of young people from the country in search of more opportunities.

Several people said they were not at all surprised that French President Emmanuel Macron had visited their gutted neighbourhoods near the epicentre of the blast this week while Lebanese leaders had not.

"We are living in ground zero. I hope another country would just take us over. Our leaders are a bunch of corrupt people," said psychologist Maryse Hayek, 48, whose parents' house was destroyed in the explosion.

Updated: August 8, 2020 05:29 PM

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