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Families of Beirut blast victims push for international probe

Beirut, Aug. 14, 2020 Families of victims of a massive explosion that hit Beirut last week called on Friday for an international investigation, as the death toll in the blast climbed to 178 people.

“We want an international probe. We want our leaders to stop playing with our lives like a chess game,” said Paul Najjar, the father of a three-year-old girl who died in the Aug. 4 blast.

“We want to know who killed our loved ones,” he said at a news conference for the victims’ families in Beirut.

On Thursday, U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs, David Hale, who is currently in Beirut, said the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will join the investigation into the blast that has devastated large parts of the city.

The blast and its aftermath prompted the Lebanese government of Hassan Diab to resign on Monday amid calls by street protesters to hold those responsible accountable.

A UN report said on Friday that the Beirut port is now functioning at only 30 per cent capacity.

“A preliminary assessment within a 15km radius of the explosion has revealed that out of 55 medical facilities, only half are fully operational and around 40 per cent have suffered moderate to serious damage.

“It added the report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The report also said some 120 schools, used by 50,000 students, have been damaged.

The blast was caused by 2,750 metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in the port without proper safety measures.

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