Lebanon Raises Death Toll in Port Blast to 190
Lebanon’s caretaker government on Sunday raised the death toll in the August 4 blast at Beirut port to 190, with three people still unaccounted for. A report issued on Sunday reiterated that some 300,000 people had been left at least temporarily homeless, with direct-damage estimates placed at $15 billion. The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned in the wake of the explosion, which has been blamed on negligence in the storage of some 2,700 tons of highly volatile ammonium nitrate, believed to have been detonated by a welder’s torch and accelerated by fireworks stored nearby. Consultations are to begin on Monday for President Michel Aoun to appoint a prime minister-designate for establishing a new government. This would be Lebanon’s the third government in less than a year, after that of prime minister Saad Hariri resigned last October in the wake of anti-government protests decrying fiscal ineptitude, cronyism and corruption. The protests have continued despite the coronavirus pandemic, adding the port explosion to a long list of popular grievances. French President Emmanuel Macron is due in Beirut this week, leading an international effort to help Lebanon rehabilitate itself on condition that it effect deep reforms aimed at ending decades of paralyzing sectarianism.