Lebanese call for leaders' resignation as thousands lose homes

Journalist Marcel Ghanem did not mince his words. “Starting with the President of the Republic (…), he should resign tonight, and so should the others down the line,’ he said.

Thursday 06/08/2020
A man rides on a motorbike near rubble from damaged buildings after Beirut blast, August 6, (Reuters)
A man rides on a motorbike near rubble from damaged buildings after Beirut blast, August 6, (Reuters)

BEIRUT – Beirut mayor Marwan Abboud said on Wednesday that “between 250,000 and 300,000 people have become homeless as their homes have become unfit to live in.” He further estimated the damage caused to the city by the blast at between $3 and 5 billion, pending final reports from engineers and experts. “About half of Beirut was either damaged or destroyed,” he said, describing the scope of the blast.

Abboud’s statements came amid angry calls for the wholesale resignation of all officials, starting with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and all cabinet ministers, in a new wave of popular anger that draws its strength from the popular protests against the dismal performance of government officials and politicians and gaining intensity after the government's poor management of the COVID-19 pandemic and its social consequences.

TV personality and presenter of the widely watched show “Saar al-Waqt” (It is time), journalist Marcel Ghanem, did not mince words on Tuesday evening’s edition of the show. “Starting with the President of the Republic (…), he should resign tonight, and so should the others down the line to the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, the Representatives, the Ministers… All of you means all of you ... big fish and small fish alike,” Ghanem said in a strong worded opening statement.

“You have no right to speak, monitor or check,” he went on, addressing officials. “Just be quiet. (...) The reason is that you’re neglectful, corrupt, immoral, and destructive ... You are cowards ... You are a shame … You are negligence personified… Negligence is what killed people today.”

Media personality Hisham Haddad could not contain his anger at officials and the political class. “We have become apostates because of you. We do not want to pray. We want to see you hung in public squares,” he wrote on Twitter.

According to the latest figures of the Lebanese Red Cross, the death toll from the blast surpassed the one hundred mark and four thousand were wounded, indicating that its teams are still conducting search and rescue operations in the areas surrounding the explosion site.

With the support of the security forces, rescuers worked all night searching for survivors or victims trapped under the rubble.

The capital’s hospitals were overwhelmed and the injured have been going from one overflowing hospital to the next all night long.

A scene of great cataclysm greeted Beirut residents on Wednesday morning. Most of the capital’s streets were strewn with debris, glass, paper and objects that flew from the shattered doors and windows of office buildings. Burnt cars sat randomly here and there. The damage was so great that it reached the suburbs and areas relatively far from the site of the explosion.