HUNDREDS of Lebanese marched to mark the first anniversary of the Beirut port explosion that killed more than 200 people.
Lebanese police clashed with angry protesters demanding accountability for last year’s explosion, a short distance from the main event marking the tragedy’s first anniversary.
The scuffles near parliament in central Beirut broke out on Wednesday between riot police and stone-lobbing protesters, who tried to storm the main building. Riot police responded by firing tear gas and water cannon and beating demonstrators with batons.
The Red Cross said it transported six people to hospital, and had treated dozens more on-site.
Nearby, a few hundred of yards away at the port, thousands gathered to mark the first anniversary of the explosion which killed at least 214 people and injured thousands.
The grim anniversary comes amid an unprecedented economic and financial meltdown, and a political deadlock that has kept the country without a functioning government for a full year.
It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history – the result of hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate igniting after a fire broke out.
The explosion tore through the city with such force that it caused a tremor across the entire country that was heard and felt as far as the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, more than 200km (180 miles) away.
It soon emerged in documents that the highly combustible nitrates were haphazardly stored at a port warehouse alongside other flammable material since 2014, and that multiple high-level officials across the years knew of its presence and did nothing.
A year later, there has been no accountability, and the investigation has yet to answer questions such as who ordered the shipment of the chemicals and why officials ignored repeated internal warnings of their
‘This is a day of pain and grief. It is the day we lost our loved ones and relatives and children. We hope all those coming down in solidarity with us respect our pain,’ said Ibrahim Hoteit, who lost his brother in the blast and is now a spokesperson for the families fighting for accountability.
Tatiana Hasrouty, whose father was one of the casualties, said that victims must keep demanding justice.
‘We demand that everyone is held accountable for their actions. Until now, we have nothing because they are not lifting immunity so we cannot proceed with the trial,’ Hasrouty said.
‘I believe politicians, and anyone responsible, fear the people. If we put pressure on them, we can acquire justice. They are scared that if they lift the immunity, they will be held accountable. All we can do is protest, let them fear us more.
‘We don’t want them to control us any more. We don’t want any politician who is responsible for this blast to be in the government any more.’
A huge metal gavel with the words ‘Act for Justice’ was placed on a wall opposite the port with its shredded grain silos, near the words ‘My government did this’ scrawled in black.