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Beirut authorities detain port employees amid explosion investigation

Authorities in Beirut have detained 16 employees at the city’s port as they investigate Tuesday’s catastrophic explosion. The blast killed at least 135 people, injured more than 5,000 and fueled a new wave of public fury in a country already suffering from multiple crises. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In Beirut, Lebanon, authorities have detained 16 employees at the city's port, as they investigate Tuesday's catastrophic explosion. The blast killed at least 135 people, injured more than 5,000, and fueled a new wave of public fury.

    Special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports on the day's developments.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    After the massive blast destroyed much of Beirut, now comes the monumental clean-up. Groups of volunteers are working together, salvaging what they can.

    In some small way it helps distract from the trauma.

  • Man (through translator):

    You can't feel anything in Lebanon. There's nothing to be sad about or to think about.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    The shatter of falling glass continues, as if the city keeps breaking. The funerals of rescue workers began today, this one for a young female firefighter. Distraught family and colleagues wept goodbye.

    The scale of this tragedy has drawn the attention of the world. French President Emmanuel Macron walked the streets of Beirut and was quickly mobbed by angry people.

    "It's unacceptable. The corruption is unacceptable," a college student shouts at him.

    "Help us. There is no future for our kids here," pleads another person.

    France has led efforts to gather aid for Lebanon, in the grip of an economic collapse in recent months. Now even more help will be needed.

  • Emmanuel Macron (through translator):

    We will launch a European and international initiative to bring money and help directly to people. All this fear, this anxiety, the anger you have is against politicians and against corruption in the country.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Protests calling for justice have begun. Mass demonstrations against government corruption and mismanagement have rocked Lebanon for nine months.

    Now, with the blast seemingly caused by negligence, highly explosive chemicals carelessly left in a warehouse, the fury is growing. America is sending help, too. General Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, pledged continued support, including shipments of food, water and medical supplies.

    Even before this disaster, Lebanon was bankrupt and unable to afford food and fuel. Now several hundred thousand of its people are homeless too, with a government incapable of helping them.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jane Ferguson.

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