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Outrage after Lebanon health minister claims port blast deaths were 'fate'

Aftermath of the blast at the port of Lebanon's capital Beirut, on 5 August 2020 [ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images]
Aftermath of the blast at the port of Lebanon's capital Beirut, on 5 August 2020 [ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images]

Lebanon's health minister sparked outrage yesterday after claiming deaths caused by the Beirut port explosion were 'fate'.

During a televised interview, Hamad Hassan added that he thought patients who had died from coronavirus were responsible for their own death and for getting themselves infected.

The comments were made when the host asked Hassan who was responsible for the increasing number of coronavirus infections and the rising death toll.

Hassan said: "We can say that the [port] explosion and those killed is [a matter of] fate and destiny whereas those dying of the coronavirus or those being infected are in my opinion responsible, whether they wanted to or not."

The comments come as Lebanon is preparing to return to a full lockdown for three weeks, including a night curfew, in order to stem the rise in infections.

Hassan's remarks sparked outrage online, with Lebanese Twitter users reacting angrily to the health minister's efforts to deflect blame.

On Twitter, Salman Andary, a reporter for Sky News Arabia, termed Hassan's comments "provocative" and said responsibility for the rising death toll was because of the health minister's policy decisions.

Others blamed the caretaker government as a whole for the rise in coronavirus infections and said policy makers "negligence and corruption" had led to the Beirut port blast.

READ: Israel blogger makes 'secret trip' to Beirut

United Nations Officer Sarah Copland wrote: "My son's death was not fate, it was the result of negligence and corruption and those responsible must be held accountable for cutting his life short."

An investigation into the cause of the Beirut blast, which government officials promised in August would take five days, was suspended last month.

Investigating Judge Fadi Sawwan suspended the probe after two indicted former ministers requested the Supreme Court in Beirut transfer the case to another judge.

Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab was also indicted in the case on charges of criminal negligence but has declined to appear before Sawwan for questioning.

Lebanon will rise up from its ashes - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Lebanon will rise up from its ashes – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

It remains unclear when, or if, the investigation will resume.

International investigations, including one run by the US' FBI, also failed to uncover the cause of the explosion, which was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored improperly in Beirut's port.

Tensions caused by the sensitive investigation have marred government formation talks, leaving Lebanon without a fully functioning government since the blast forced Diab's resignation in August.

Qassem Hashem, a member of parliament for the Development and Liberation bloc, today called for leaders to re-empower the caretaker government to break the political deadlock.

In comments run by Al-Anbaa magazine, Hashem called on leaders to make the "exceptional" decision, saying that "necessity removes restrictions".

READ: Lebanon's famed musician Elias Rahbani dies aged 83

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