As large, violent protests gripped the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Saturday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab promised to hold the country’s elections two months early. He faces calls to resign over a cataclysmic blast that devastated the city earlier this week when three tons of unsecured ammonium nitrate exploded. More than 150 people died, and 300,000 were left homeless. Police fired non-lethal rounds at protesters, who in turn threw projectiles and ignited fireworks Saturday night, setting buildings in the city’s central district on fire.
The Middle Eastern nation faced hard times even before the disaster, with its currency devalued and economic collapse looming, likely lengthening the road to recovery. A mining explosives manufacturer based in Mozambique, Fábrica de Explosivos Moçambique, had originally purchased the incendiary material, which was left in a waterfront warehouse due to legal disputes over port fees for more than six years. Responsibility has been a matter of debate in the explosion’s aftermath, with various Lebanese officials claiming they sounded the alarm over the danger of the stockpile.