Lebanese protesters stormed the foreign ministry in Beirut on Saturday as anger exploded over a deadly blast that made hundreds of thousands homeless and shocked the world.

Thousands of demonstrators, some of them brandishing nooses, had descended on the city centre to vent their fury at politicians they blame for Tuesday's explosion, which levelled Beirut port and killed 158 people.

As security forces fired tear gas to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he would seek early elections, saying it was the only way to "exit the country's structural crisis".

The blast has prompted an impressive aid response from both inside and outside Lebanon, but demonstrators' chants and the mock gallows they set up in the street made it clear that people want heads to roll.

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A protester throw stones against the Lebanese riot police, during anti-government protest following the massive explosion which devastated Beirut, Lebanon. Photo / AP
A protester throw stones against the Lebanese riot police, during anti-government protest following the massive explosion which devastated Beirut, Lebanon. Photo / AP

Demonstrators marched through streets ravaged by the blast, gathering in the central Martyrs' Square, where a truck was on fire.

The police said an officer had fallen to his death after an "assault" by "a number of murderous rioters" during the protests.

"A member of the Internal Security Forces died while.... helping people trapped inside the Le Gray hotel" in downtown Beirut, the police force said on Twitter, without providing additional details.

That came after a group led by retired Lebanese army officers stormed the foreign ministry and declared it the "headquarters of the revolution".

"We are taking over the foreign ministry as a seat of the revolution," Sami Rammah, a retired officer, announced by loudspeaker from the ministry's front steps.

"We call on all the anguished Lebanese people to take to the streets to demand the prosecution of all the corrupt," he said, appealing to the international community to boycott the government.

Protesters run from tear gas fired by police forces during an anti-government protest following the massive explosion which devastated Beirut, Lebanon. Photo / AP
Protesters run from tear gas fired by police forces during an anti-government protest following the massive explosion which devastated Beirut, Lebanon. Photo / AP

In an apparently coordinated strategy, others stormed the headquarters of the country's banking association, a focal point of anger during recent mass protests over corruption and Lebanon's collapsing economy.

They were later chased out by security forces who entered via a back door and doused the fire.

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A group also briefly entered the economy ministry, scattering piles of documents in the street.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it had taken 63 people from the protest to nearby hospitals and treated another 175 at the scene, without specifying who they were.

As rescuers made last-ditch attempts to find survivors amid the rubble, efforts were afoot to drum up international support for the disaster-hit country ahead of a virtual aid conference on Sunday.

A fire at the port on Tuesday ignited a stock of ammonium nitrate, triggering an explosion that was felt as far away as Cyprus, and destroyed entire neighbourhoods and injured at least 6000.

It was widely perceived as a direct consequence of corruption and incompetence, perhaps the most egregious case of callousness on the part of Lebanon's long-reviled elite.

AUSTRALIAN IDENTIFIED

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The Australian citizen who died in the blast has been identified as 2-year old Isaac Oehlers.

As tensions mount in Lebanon following Tuesday's catastrophic events which has claimed more than 150 lives, the family of one its youngest victims have been left heartbroken.

People gather at the Martyrs Square during a protest against the political elite and the government following the deadly explosion at the Beirut port. Photo / AP
People gather at the Martyrs Square during a protest against the political elite and the government following the deadly explosion at the Beirut port. Photo / AP

"We are heartbroken by the sudden and tragic loss of our beautiful boy following the disaster in Beirut," the family said in a statement.

"Isaac was two and will be deeply missed by family and friends. The family would like to thank everyone who has offered comfort and support to us, and would like to express our condolences to everyone in Lebanon who is suffering from this devastating tragedy."

Approximately 158 people have died from the blast with a further 6000 suffering injuries.