Protesters took to the streets in most Lebanese regions on Tuesday as the national currency hit a new low against the dollar on the black market.
The slide has picked up speed over the past two weeks, with the exchange rate soaring from 10,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on March 2 to around 15,000 on Tuesday.
Angry protesters blocked several key streets in the capital and its suburbs and major roads in the North, the Bekaa and the South. They also blocked the highway linking Beirut to the South in the Khalde, Naameh, Saadiyat and Jiye areas.
The army later intervened and reopened the highway in Saadiyat and Jiye and the Elia intersection in Sidon.
In the North, a fight broke out between protesters in the Dinniyeh town of Miryata and a motorist who insisted on crossing a blocked road linking Dinniyeh to Tripoli. The National News Agency said an army force intervened and fired in the air to disperse the crowds before arresting three people in connection with the clash.
A similar clash erupted in the nearby area of al-Ayrouniyeh, also prompting the army’s intervention.
Young men on motorcycles were meanwhile roaming Beirut’s streets and asking shop owners to close their businesses in rejection of the dollar exchange rate surge, NNA said. A witness told Naharnet that the young men scuffled with the owner of a money exchange shop who refused to close his business in the Hamra area.
In Tripoli, protesters marched in the city’s streets and staged sit-ins outside the houses of several politicians, demanding their resignation and calling for the immediate formation of a “transitional government” that can halt the collapse.
And in Batroun, most shops and firms closed due to the dramatic surge in the dollar exchange rate and amid “an atmosphere of grief, anxiousness and fear,” NNA said.
The agency added that businesses have concerns over security, especially after “the increase of robberies targeted against the various shops and institutions.”
Gas stations in Batroun were also witnessing a run by anxious citizens seeking to fill the tanks of their vehicles.
“While a number of stations have already closed, the owners of other stations are readying to close earlier than usual to preserve the quantities that they still have and in anticipation of a new hike in prices tomorrow,” NNA said.
Citizens in Batroun were also scrambling to supermarkets and grocery stores, which ran out of many items due to panic shopping by residents fearing essential foodstuffs shortages.