Second Lebanese minister resigns, as Beirut protests rage following devastating port blast

Lebanon’s Environment Minister Damianos Kattar has resigned amid huge anti-government protests. Kattar is the second minister to quit, with protesters calling for change following the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port.

Kattar handed in his notice on Sunday. According to MTV Lebanon News, Kattar told Prime Minister Hassan Diab that friends of his family died in Tuesday’s explosion, and he would therefore “no longer continue” with his responsibilities. 

Hours earlier, Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad stepped down from her post, apologizing on television for failing to meet the “aspirations” of the Lebanese people. 

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The resignations came after tens of thousands of protesters thronged the devastated streets of Beirut, demanding resignations from a government they blame for the blast. As the demonstrators built gallows and used nooses to hang effigies of the country’s top political figures, some groups attempted to storm parliament, and others managed to occupy the Foreign Ministry and other government buildings, causing havoc inside.

Lebanon’s economy was struggling before the explosion, however, and protests in the capital were frequent. The blast – which killed more than 150 people – brought this lingering anti-government sentiment to boiling point. 

Authorities have blamed the explosion on a 2,700-ton stash of ammonium nitrate in a port warehouse. Protesters have accused the government of negligence in storing the dangerous chemical for years without proper oversight.

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