A week after blast, Beirut pauses to remember the dead

Full Screen
1 / 15

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A scouts band performs in honor of the victims of the last week's explosion that killed over 150 people and devastated the city, near the blast site in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

BEIRUT – The shattered city of Beirut on Tuesday marked a week since the catastrophic explosion that killed at least 171 people, injured thousands and plunged Lebanon into a deeper political crisis.

Thousands of people marched near the devastated port, remembering those who died in the most destructive single blast to hit the country.

They observed a minute of silence at 6:08 p.m. local time, the moment on Aug. 4 that thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in the city's port where it had been stored for more than six years, apparently with the knowledge of top political and security officials.

At that moment Tuesday, church bells tolled and mosque loudspeakers recited a call to prayer.

Hundreds marched through the streets of the hard-hit neighborhood of Gemayze carrying portraits of the dead before a candlelight vigil after dusk near the port.

“He knew,” read a poster bearing President Michel Aoun's picture.

Aoun, in office since 2016, said Friday he was first told of the dangerous stockpile nearly three weeks ago and immediately ordered military and security agencies to do “what was needed.” But he suggested his responsibility ended there, saying he had no authority over the port.

“I’m very furious, I’m enraged, I’m angry, I’m sad. I’m hopeless,” said Anthony Semaan, in his 20s, who said he came to pay respects to the victims.