Beirut: Lebanon’s information minister resigned on Sunday amid violent protests over the Beirut blast that killed at least 160 — as demonstrators set up mock gallows and demanded leaders “resign or hang.”
Manal Abdel-Samad was the most prominent resignation of at least six lawmakers who have stepped down — with more expected to follow soon over the handling of a massive stockpile of chemicals that was known risk risk for years.
“I want to apologize to the Lebanese people, whose aspirations we were unable to fulfill due to the difficulty of the challenges facing us,” Abdel-Samad said in a short televised statement from the ministry, according to Al Jazeera.
In her resignation letter, she noted the “magnitude of the catastrophe” from Tuesday’s blast that “shook the nation and hurt our hearts and minds,” noting the “pains of the wounded, missing and displaced.”
“In response to the public will for change, I resign from the government,” Abdel-Samad wrote.
Her resignation comes as about half a dozen lawmakers offered their resignation over the scandal about the 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate that finally exploded Tuesday, killing at least 160, injuring more than 6,000 and razing much of the city.
At least one other minister, and a close advisor to Prime Minister Hassan Diab, is also expected to resign, local media has reported.
Diab met with his Cabinet to discuss the resignations Sunday, but there were no comments after the meeting, according to the local reports.
The political upheaval came amid ongoing violent clashes between protesters and security forces who have fired heavy volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Protesters briefly took over the Foreign Ministry, saying it will be the headquarters of their movement. They also set up gallows and nooses for mock hanging sessions of cut-out cardboard images of top Lebanese officials, telling them to “resign or hang.”
“Prepare the gallows because our anger doesn’t end in one day,” warned one message declaring the demonstrations would continue, Aljazeera said.
The Lebanese army, meanwhile, conceded Sunday that there was little hope of finding any more survivors amid the rubble.
“After three days of search and rescue operations we can say we have finished the first phase, which involved the possibility of finding survivors,” Colonel Roger Khoury told a press conference, according to Agence France-Presse.
“As technicians working on the ground, we can say we have fading hopes of finding survivors,” added Khoury, who heads a team of military technicians operating at the blast site.
The health ministry on Saturday said 21 people were still missing following the explosion which was compared to the World War II nuclear attacks on Hiroshima ans Nagasaki.