Lebanon's President Michel Aoun has rejected any international probe into the catastrophic Beirut port blast, saying a missile or negligence could have been responsible as rescuers desperately combed the rubble for survivors.
Rescuers have been combing through the rubble of Beirut port in a search for survivors watched breathlessly by relatives of the missing, while an investigation into the huge blast made its first arrests.
A health ministry official said on Saturday that 21 people are still missing and up to 6,000 are injured, four days after a massive explosion at the port left 158 people dead.
The authorities had previously put the number of people wounded at 5,000, stressing that at least 120 of them were considered to be in critical condition.
Shock has turned to anger in Lebanon since Tuesday's colossal explosion devastated swathes of the capital, with security forces firing tear gas at demonstrators who gathered near parliament late Thursday.
The revelation that a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate fertiliser had languished for years in a warehouse in the heart of the capital served as shocking proof to many Lebanese of the rot at the core of their political system.
What ignited the 2,750 tonnes of fertiliser is still unclear – officials have said work had recently begun on repairs to the warehouse, while fireworks were stored nearby.
Near the seat of the explosion, next to the carcass of the port's giant grain silos, rescue teams from France, Germany and Italy coordinated their search efforts.
"I am waiting to hear that you have been rescued alive, my dear," tweeted Emilie Hasrouty, whose brother is among the missing.
"There wasn't a door I didn't knock on to know what happened to you, and now that the waiting is almost over, I am paralysed with fear."
This is our dear @emiliehasrouty saying it to the government as it is - her brother has been missing since the explosion, he works in the Beirut port, the governement hasn't been doing its job fast enough find him and others. #Lebanon https://t.co/yf5GkV9Eqp— Luna Safwan - لونا صفوان (@LunaSafwan) August 7, 2020
Beirut has received a stream of international assistance since the blast, and on Thursday hosted French President Emmanuel Macron, who pressed Lebanese leaders for deep reform ahead of an aid conference planned in the coming days.
Turkey’s AFAD and UMKE teams take part in search and rescue works after the fire at a warehouse with explosives at the Port of Beirut led to massive blasts on 4th August, in Beirut, #Lebanon #AA— Anadolu Images (@anadoluimages) August 8, 2020
📸: Cem Özdel pic.twitter.com/sgjhsYZPBy
World leaders have joined the chorus of voices in Lebanon and the diaspora demanding an international inquiry into the cause of the devastation.
Lebanon's president has rejected any international probe into the catastrophic Beirut port blast, saying a missile or negligence could have been responsible.
The UN children's agency UNICEF has said nearly 80,000 children are among the 300,000 people left homeless, including many who have been separated from their families.