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Beirut - Lebanon after the explosion: "The shock will inevitably turn to anger"

Lebanon after the explosion: "The shock will inevitably turn to anger"

"Mr President, help us get rid of this government": During his visit to the devastated Beirut, the population appealed desperately to French President Emmanuel Macron. Thousands of volunteers begin cleaning up.

"Lebanon is not alone," tweeted Emmanuel Macron after his arrival in Beirut. The focus of his visit, he emphasized, was the support of the population severely traumatized after the explosion of almost 2,800 tons of ammonium nitrate.

The French head of state looked visibly shocked as he walked cautiously through the devastated Beirut port. The Lebanese Red Cross fears that up to 100 people could still lie under the rubble.

Former colonial power France wants to help

France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, wants to "provide all-round help". Macron left no doubt about that in Beirut on Thursday. But its political message was just as unmistakable. “Without reforms,” Macron had already made clear at the airport, “Lebanon will continue to sink”. Only when the corruption stops can things pick up again and a “treaty for the reconstruction of Lebanon” is possible.

The French head of state spoke from the heart of many Lebanese. For several decades they have been hoping for a comprehensive change. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets for it. But then Corona came and the wave of protests subsided. This was followed by the dramatic fall in the price of the lira and, as a temporary negative climax, the apocalypse in the Beirut port, which left 300,000 Lebanese homeless.

We will probably have to take matters into our own hands

But resignation - and this message was also conveyed to Macron - is out of the question for most Lebanese. "Since the government is failing," said a Beirut medical student to a French television reporter, "we will probably have to take matters into our own hands."

In Mar Mikhael and Gemmayze, the heavily devastated trendy districts not far from the port, young Lebanese have formed work brigades. They are committed to sweeping up millions of broken glass, loading torn aluminum panels and car wreckage onto trucks and flatbed trucks.

Others climb the stairwells littered with rubble to provide food for elderly people who are still trapped or to evacuate to mountain villages. The wave of solidarity is huge. That has always been the case in times of crisis in Lebanon. The population sticks together because they know that they have nothing to expect from the government.

Anger and anger in the population increase

In the vigor of the volunteers, however, there is also increasing anger and sheer anger. Many people still cannot understand how it could happen that almost 2,800 tons of ammonium nitrate were simply forgotten or ignored by the government. In six letters, the port authorities appealed to the judicial authorities to resell the explosive chemicals or to hand them over to the armed forces for security.

But nothing happened - until it came to a catastrophe. "And we should trust such people, continue to let rule," asks Marwan Hassani in a telephone interview with the correspondent of this newspaper. Like so many Lebanese, the 29-year-old lost his job in a fast food restaurant three months ago. "After the horror" on Tuesday evening, he will prepare to "breathe new life" into the protest movement that began last October.

"The political class in Lebanon should be on their guard in the coming weeks and months," writes Faysal Itani, Deputy Director of the Center for Global Policy from Lebanon in an opinion piece for the New York Times. "The shock will inevitably turn into anger". The readiness of the international community to help Lebanon will not seem to change anything in this determination.

Just a drop in the ocean

The emergency aid, which is arriving in Lebanon not only from France, but also from many Arab countries, Greece and Russia, is, in view of the enormous extent of the destruction in the country, only "a drop in the ocean", believes Marwan.

Emmanuel Macron also felt the desire of the Lebanese to radically turn their country inside out yesterday afternoon when he visited Beirut's trendy Gemaayze district. "The people want the regime to be overthrown," was how hundreds chanted the Arab Spring slogan. "Mr. President," cried a young woman in despair, "please help us get rid of this government." Macron smiled shyly when he heard the request and said nothing.