LAHORE - In the aftermath of the massive Beirut blast, which the Lebanese government admitted was the result of widespread corruption in the country Lebanon's prime minister announced his government's resignation on Monday.

The blast at a port warehouse of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed at least 163 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed swathes of the Mediterranean capital, worsening months of political and economic meltdown.

In televised address, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he supported Lebanese people’s demand that those responsible for "this crime" to be put on trial. Diab made the announcement after the cabinet, formed in January with the backing of the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies, met on Monday, with many ministers wanting to resign, according to ministerial and political sources.

Diab said on Saturday he would request early parliamentary elections. Demonstrations broke out again in central Beirut, with some protesters hurling rocks at security forces guarding an entrance leading to the parliament building, who responded with tear gas. 

For many ordinary Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance, and they have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.

Lebanon's president had previously said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port. He later said the investigation would consider whether the cause was external interference as well as negligence or an accident. The Lebanese army said on Monday that another five bodies were pulled from the rubble, raising the death toll to 163, while the search and rescue operations continued.

The cabinet decided to refer the investigation of the blast to the judicial council, the highest legal authority whose rulings cannot be appealed, a ministerial source and state news agency NNA said. The council usually handles top security cases.

Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level unaccountability. An international donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief, but foreign countries were demanding transparency over how the aid was to be used.