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Photo: Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Beirut residents are still clearing rubble from streets that appear war-torn, days after a blast that shocked the country and horrified the world.

Why it matters: The explosion is likely to accelerate a painful cycle Lebanon was already living through — discontent, economic distress, and emigration.

The big picture: Lebanon was already undergoing a massive financial crisis, deepening coronavirus outbreak, and political instability following months of protests. It was also recovering from devastating wildfires last year.

  • The economic crisis had left 75% of Lebanese in need of aid, 33% unemployed, and 15% — one million people — below the poverty line, BBC reports.
  • Lebanon already had among the lowest life satisfaction levels in the world, wedged between Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, according to Gallup.
  • Add to that an explosion which killed over 150 people, injured more than 5,000 and left as many as 300,000 homeless in a matter of minutes.

Where things stand: While countries such as France have offered to help, it's unlikely the international community can truly come to Lebanon's rescue — financially or otherwise — during a pandemic that is sapping most attention and resources.

  • Lebanon's middle class has been outraged by the government negligence that allowed 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate to be unsafely stored in the city's port for six years, and by a "slow and ineffective rescue effort," The Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Blame-shifting and an unwillingness to allow international experts to lead an investigation into the explosion are doing little to restore confidence.

Between the lines: There is general agreement in Lebanon that the political ruling class is corrupt, the Middle East Institute's Hassan Mneimneh tells Axios.

  • As the dust settles in Beirut, there will likely be more protests calling for "the fall of the regime."
  • Yes, but: "As dramatic as this event is, it does not seem to be a break from the cycle of trauma," Mneimeh says.

What to watch: Educated younger Lebanese, already struggling with high unemployment, are likely to head West in search of employment, Mneimeh says.

  • Many have the skills and means to find work outside of Lebanon. That could drive a brain drain just as Beirut and Lebanon are attempting to rebuild.
  • Financially, foreign governments have said they will provide Lebanon with short-term aid, but many will be cautious in dealing with a government that is notoriously corrupt and associated with Hezbollah, per the Journal.
  • The International Monetary Fund and the Trump administration have already said they'll oppose a $5 billion bailout Lebanon is seeking absent major economic overhauls.

The bottom line: The chances of "organizing something constructive" in the aftermath of the explosion appear low, according to Mneimneh.

  • "The prospects for Lebanon are still very grim," he says.

Go deeper

Nov 10, 2020 - World

Exclusive: Bahaa Hariri says Lebanon and Israel should resolve disputes, move toward peace

Bahaa Hariri, the billionaire son of the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, told Axios he thinks Lebanon and Israel should resolve their border disputes and move toward a peace deal.

Why it matters: Israel is an enemy country under Lebanese law, making this a very unusual statement from a member of one of Lebanon’s most prominent political dynasties. Bahaa’s brother Saad is currently trying to form a new government in Lebanon and is known for holding hardline positions on Israel.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz became on Sunday the first Team USA Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver .86 seconds later.

California's largest wildfire razes homes as 88 huge blazes burn in U.S.

Firefighters on the scene as dozens of homes burn during the Dixie Fire in the Indian Falls neighborhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California, on July 24. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Flames from California's biggest wildfire were engulfing homes in the state's north overnight — one of 88 large blazes raging in the U.S.

Driving the news: The Dixie Fire, which erupted July 14 near the origin of the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, was tearing through the community of Indian Falls in the neighboring Plumas County, per AP.