A fuel tank explosion in Lebanon killed 28 people and injured 80 on Sunday as a crowd clamoured for petrol, authorities and medics said, the latest catastrophe to spark outrage in the crisis-hit country.
The tragedy in the impoverished north overwhelmed medical facilities and heaped new misery on a nation already beset by an economic crisis and severe fuel shortages that have crippled hospitals and caused long power cuts.
The health ministry said the explosion in Al-Tleil village in the Akkar region killed 28 people and wounded 80.
Anger boiled over as protesters attacked the Beirut home of premier-designate Najib Mikati to demand his resignation, with rocks thrown and clashes with anti-riot forces, the official National News Agency (NNA) reported.
Two soldiers died, 11 were critically injured and four are missing, it added.
The NNA said the blast followed scuffles as people crowded to get petrol.
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A security source said that DNA testing to identify victims had begun.
At Tripoli’s Al-Salam hospital, emergency rooms quickly filled.
Akkar residents torched an empty house thought to belong to the owner of the land where the explosion took place, the NNA reported.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan said he was in contact with several countries to evacuate serious cases abroad.
Ismail al-Sheikh, 23, burned on his arms and legs, was driven by his sister Marwa to Beirut’s Geitawi hospital, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) away.
She said some witnesses said a lighter sparked the blast; others claimed shots were fired.
“The dead are victims of a careless state,” Marwa told AFP.
Sawsan Abdullah burst into tears at Geitawi hospital when a doctor told her that her soldier son was in critical condition.
Lebanon, hit by a financial crisis, has been grappling with soaring poverty, a plummeting currency and dire fuel shortages.
Fuel shortages have left many with just two hours of electricity a day, and several hospitals have warned they may have to close due to power outages.
It that hospitals would be provided with diesel to power generators.
Sunday’s blast comes less than two weeks after Lebanon marked the first anniversary of the Beirut port explosion.
Vital international aid pledges remain contingent on a new government being formed to spearhead reforms, and on talks restarting with the International Monetary Fund.