BEIRUT: Lebanon marked the first anniversary of the catastrophic Beirut port explosion on Wednesday with prayers for the victims and expressions of anger and sadness from residents who are still in mourning and demanding justice.
One year since the blast, caused by a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely at the port for years, no senior official has been held to account, infuriating many Lebanese as their country endures a financial collapse.
More than 200 people were killed and thousands wounded. One of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, it was felt in Cyprus, more than 240 km (150 miles) away.
An investigation into the blast is stalling as requests to question senior politicians and former officials have been denied.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has led Western pressure for reform in Lebanon, said its leaders owed the people the truth and heaped new criticism on the governing elite for failing to deal with the economic crisis.
Victims’ families have been organising demonstrations demanding justice for those who lost their lives.
“We didn’t forget yet, it is an hour of anger, sadness,” said Khose Khilichian, a resident of the Bourj Hammoud district near the port, who said he would pray for the victims.
“My wife and I were on the balcony, and we just found ourselves in the middle of the living room. My house was all destroyed.”
The damage is still visible across much of Beirut. The port resembles a bomb site, its towering grain silos unrepaired.
A huge banner on a building overlooking the port said: “Hostages of a Murderous State.”
“The neighbourhood changed, the spirits changed, everything changed in this neighbourhood,” 72-year-old Habib Frem, who was wounded in the blast and whose house was damaged, said, wearing black to mark the day.
Marches are due to converge on the port where prayers are expected to be held just after 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), coinciding with the time of the blast.–Reuters.