In the wake of last week’s disastrous explosions in Beirut, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his cabinet resigned on Monday in the wake of protests that followed a massive explosion critics say was the result of neglect by the country’s leadership.

“I set out to combat corruption, but I discovered that corruption is bigger than the state,” Diab said in his resignation address. “I declare today the resignation of this government. God bless Lebanon.”

The explosions, which occurred last Tuesday, devastated nearby portions of central Beirut, killing more than 150 residents and crippling vital economic drivers like the city’s port and nightlife district. It is generally believed they were caused by a fire that ignited 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive fertilizer material, stored in a warehouse. Officials were criticized for allowing it to sit in poor conditions since 2014.

“Not only do we have an absence of government and a political vacuum, but we’re going to have a severe problem with the function of the state of Lebanon,” Imad Salamey, a political scientist at Beirut’s Lebanese American University, said. “We are heading toward the unknown.”

Diab’s cabinet will see the country through until a new government is formed, likely out of a partnership between Lebanon’s various political factions. Diab has also requested early elections, but there are currently no set plans. In the past, forming a new government in Lebanon has taken months to accomplish.

Diab pictured in June wearing a face mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of an emergency cabinet session Diab pictured in June wearing a face mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of an emergency cabinet session Photo: DALATI AND NOHRA / -