Beirut explosion: Government minister quits after violent protests as UK pledges £20m more aid

A Lebanese government minister has quit following the devastating explosion in Beirut that killed more than 150 people, as protesters called for a sustained uprising to topple the country’s leaders.

Information minister Manal Abdel-Samad said she was resigning “given the magnitude of the catastrophe” and “in response to the public will for change”.

Another minister – a close adviser to Prime Minister Hassan Diab – is also expected to resign, according to local media.

The Lebanese army said on Sunday that hopes of finding more survivors following the blast were fading, with 21 people still missing.

It follows a night of violent anti-government protests in Lebanon’s capital as anger mounts over the alleged mismanagement and corruption behind the explosion.

A police officer died and more than 170 people were injured in the demonstrations on Saturday, as protesters tried to break into the parliament building before going on to storm several government ministries.

Demonstrators set up gallows and nooses and held mock hanging sessions of cut-out cardboard images of top Lebanese officials, while some held signs that read “resign or hang”.

The devastating explosion in Beirut on Tuesday killed at least 158 people and injured more than 6,000, while destroying parts of the city.

The blast happened after 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate – a chemical used as a fertiliser and in explosives – caught fire after being stored unsafely at a port warehouse for six years, Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said.

Five of the Lebanese parliament’s 128 members have announced their resignation since Saturday.

But the country’s top Catholic cleric said the “whole government” should resign as it cannot “change the way it governs”.

“The resignation of an MP or a minister is not enough,” Christian Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai said.

“The whole government should resign as it is unable to help the country recover.”

Lawyer Maya Habli said: “People should sleep in the streets and demonstrate against the government until it falls.”

In a televised speech on Saturday evening, Mr Diab said the only solution was to hold early elections.

He called on all political parties to put aside their disagreements and said he was prepared to stay in the post for two months to allow time for politicians to work on structural reforms.

On Sunday, an international conference was co-hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres aimed at bringing donors together to supply emergency aid and equipment to Lebanon.

“Despite differences in view, everyone must come to the help of Lebanon and its people,” Mr Macron said via video-link from his summer retreat on the French Riviera.

“Our task today is to act swiftly and efficiently.”

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