The Latest: Beirut protesters enter government buildings

The latest on the explosion in Beirut (all times local):

9:40 p.m.

Dozens of Lebanese protesters have stormed the buildings of a number of government ministries and the headquarters of the country's banking association channeling their rage against state and financial institutions after the huge blast that killed over 160.

Earlier on Saturday, protesters entered the empty buildings of the Foreign Ministry and declared it the headquarters of their protest movement. Others fanned out to enter the Economy and Energy ministries, and some walked away with documents claiming they will reveal the extent of corruption that permeates the government. Some also entered the Environment Ministry. Meanwhile, dozens of protesters broke into the banking association headquarters.

Saturday's rally was in response to the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut on Tuesday that killed nearly 160 people and wounded 6,000, defacing the capital’s coastline. Protesters demanded justice for the victims and wanted to hold the government accountable, complaining that years of corruption and mismanagement have brought about the disaster.

Public anger had already been rising in Lebanon before the blast because of an unprecedented financial crisis in which the national currency lost 80% of its value. Banks imposed informal capital controls in a controversial effort to control the collapse of the pound and foreign currency flight. The dire conditions were deepened with rising power cuts and concerns that hospitals were facing severe shortages and financial troubles.


8:20 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office says an international conference on Sunday is aimed at bringing donors together to provide emergency aid and equipment to the Lebanese population.

Co-hosted by Macron and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the video conference will see the participation of U.S. President Donald Trump, Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Jordan King Abdullah II, Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and other leaders from Russia, China and the European Union.

The money collected will be used to send emergency medical aid, equipment to help clear streets and rebuild schools and hospitals as well as to provide food for the civilian population, Macron’s office said.

Macron, who was the first foreign leader to visit Beirut in the wake of the devastating explosion, promised the aid would not go into “corrupt hands” but to non-governmental organizatoins and the civilian population.

France is Lebanon’s former colonial power.


7:15 p.m.

A group of Lebanese protesters including retired army officers have stormed the Foreign Ministry building in the capital Beirut as part of protests following the massive explosion this week.

The protesters said Saturday the Foreign Ministry would be the headquarters for a “revolution” and called on the current government to resign.

Retired army officer Sami Ramah read a statement on the building's steps after dozens of protesters pushed their way into the building. “This authority must step down,” he said.

Protesters raised flags with the image of a fist that has come to symbolize nationwide anti-government protests.

Some of the nearly 200 protesters entered the building and burned a few documents and pictures of the Lebanese President. It was not clear what the documents were.

Rage against the government spiked after the Beirut port explosion Tuesday that killed nearly 160 people and injured 6,000 while leaving much of the coastline mangled.

Protesters gathered in central Beirut clashed with security forces.


1:55 p.m.

Syria’s state TV says 43 Syrian citizens were killed in this week’s blast in Beirut.

The TV quotes the Syrian embassy in Lebanon as saying that the number is not final as search operations for dozens of missing are still ongoing.

Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrians many of them refugees who fled civil war in their country.

A Lebanese health ministry official said on Saturday that the blast killed 154 people, including 21 bodies who have not been identified. He added that 45 people are still missing.


1:50 p.m.

The president of a Christian party in Lebanon says the group’s three legislators in parliament will resign in protest against the government over this week’s deadly blast.

Samy Gemayel made his comments on Saturday during the funeral of a senior official with the Kataeb Party who was killed in Tuesday’s blast that destroyed Beirut’s port and damaged the capital.

The Kataeb party is part of the opposition and is known for its harsh criticism of the government that is backed by the militant Hezbollah group and its allies.

Lebanon’s parliament has 128-members and some legislators have said they will resign in protest over widespread corruption.

Legislator Marwan Hamadeh resigned earlier this week in protest after the blast occurred.


1:15 p.m.

Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay says Ankara is ready to help Lebanon rebuild Beirut’s port and send ambulance planes to evacuate some of the wounded for treatment in Turkish hospitals.

Oktay spoke on Saturday to reporters after meeting Lebanese President Michel Aoun. He added that a Turkish search team is working at the port that was destroyed in a massive explosion on Tuesday.

Oktay said Turkey has already sent two field hospitals, 400 tons of wheat and food products. He added that his government is ready to use the Turkish port of Mersin to receive products that can be later sent to Lebanon in smaller ships.

Oktay arrived earlier in the day with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.


12:40 p.m.

The Dutch foreign ministry says that the wife of the Netherlands’ ambassador to Lebanon has died of injuries she sustained in the massive blast that hit Beirut earlier this week.

Hedwig Waltmans-Molier died Saturday morning at age 55. She worked for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs alongside her husband, Jan Waltmans. The couple had two adult children.

The ministry says that Waltmans-Molier, who worked in the human resources department of the embassy, “was standing in the living room next to Jan and by sheer bad luck was hit by the explosion.”

The family had recently returned to Beirut after a holiday.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag expressed their condolences to the family and paid tribute to Waltmans-Molier in a joint statement.


12:05 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office has confirmed that an international aid conference will be organized on Sunday to support Lebanon after the deadly Beirut blast.

The videoconference, scheduled on Sunday at 12:00 GMT, will be co-hosted by France and the United Nations, Macron’s office said.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said that he would participate in the conference that will also include other international leaders.

Macron, who walked through the destroyed streets of Beirut during a visit to Lebanon on Thursday, promised that aid would not go into “corrupt hands” but to NGOs and the civilian population.

The French president was the first foreign leader to visit in the wake of the devastating explosion. France is the former colonial power in Lebanon.


11:45 a.m.

Senior officials from the Middle East and Europe have started arriving in Lebanon in a show of solidarity with the tiny country that suffered a deadly blast this week which caused large-scale damage to the capital Beirut.

The first to arrive Saturday was Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the chief of the 22-member Arab League as well as Turkey’s vice president and foreign minister.

The visits come as the country braced for large anti-government protests amid popular anger against Lebanon’s political elite.

The country’s ruling class, made up mostly of former civil war-era leaders, is blamed for widespread corruption, incompetence and mismanagement that contributed to Tuesday’s explosion, in which 154 people were killed, more than 5,000 wounded and the country’s largest port and nearby areas were destroyed.

he devastating blast was triggered by thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the port which was apparently set off by a fire.