Riot police in Lebanon have fired tear gas to disperse protesters who took to the streets of Beirut last night over the government's handling of the explosion at the city's port on Tuesday.

Protesters blame government corruption for the blast, which killed at least 154 people and injured 5,000. The explosion has been blamed on the unsafe storage of tonnes of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse.

Some in the small protest were wounded, the National News Agency reported.

Sixteen people have been detained as part of an official investigation into the blast.

To many Lebanese, it was tragic proof of the rot at the core of their governing system, which has failed to halt the deepest economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war and has plunged millions into poverty.

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Earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to lead international emergency relief efforts and organise an aid conference in the coming days, promising that "Lebanon is not alone".

But he also warned that the country, already in desperate need of a multi-billion-dollar bailout and hit by political turmoil since October, would "continue to sink" unless it implements urgent reforms.

Speaking of Lebanon's political leaders, Mr Macron said "their responsibility is huge - that of a revamped pact with the Lebanese people in the coming weeks, that of deep change".

The International Monetary Fund, whose talks with Lebanon started in May but have since stalled, warned that it was "essential to overcome the impasse in the discussions on critical reforms".

The IMF urged Lebanon - which is seeking more than €16.8bn in external funding and now faces billions more in disaster costs - "to put in place a meaningful programme to turn around the economy" following Tuesday's disaster.

French President Emmanuel Macron (C) views the damage left by the bomb

Mr Macron's visit to the small Mediterranean country, a French protectorate during colonial times, was the first by a foreign head of state since the disaster.

He visited Beirut's harbour side blast zone, a wasteland of blackened ruins, rubble and charred debris where a 140-metre-wide crater has filled with sea water.

As he inspected a devastated pharmacy, crowds outside vented their fury at the country's "terrorist" leadership, shouting "revolution" and "the people want an end to the regime!".

Later Mr Macron was thronged by survivors who pleaded with him to help get rid of the ruling elite.

Another woman implored Mr Macron to keep French financial aid out of the reach of Lebanese officials, accused by many of their people of rampant graft and greed.

"I guarantee you that this aid will not fall into corrupt hands," the president pledged.

Mr Macron later told BFMTV he was not presenting Lebanon's leadership with a "diktat" after some of the political class criticised his remarks as interference.

Compounding their woes, Lebanon recorded 255 coronavirus cases yesterday - its highest single-day infection tally - after the blast upended a planned lockdown and sent thousands streaming into overflowing hospitals.

The disaster death toll rose from 137 to 149 yesterday evening, the health ministry said, and was expected to further rise as rescue workers kept digging through the rubble.

The crater left by the blast in Beirut port 

Dr Marco Baldan, a surgeon with the International Committee of the Red Cross, said he is still recovering from the shock of the explosion.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said he has been assigned to warzones for over 20 years but the devastation caused in Beirut "has been heartbreaking".

He said when the explosion happened he was at home and it was shaking like an earthquake, followed by a huge blast, which blew out the windows of his apartment.

"We activated our emergency response and prepared medical supplies and staff," he said.

Dr Baldan said the Lebanese Red Cross has managed to bring teams from around the country to assist but there were numerous obstacles to deal with.

"Unfortunately three of the main hospitals had been damaged in the explosion so they had to refer their own patients to other hospitals," adding that by Tuesday night, "2,700 wounded patients had entered hospital, no health system could manage such numbers."

Dr Baldan said the health system in Lebanon was already stretched because of an economic crisis, and this combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, means international help is "essential".