Rescue workers in Lebanon continue to dig under the rubble in search of survivors of the devastating blast that struck Beirut’s port on Tuesday, killing 137 people and wounding 5,000.
Try here aN confine Each What we know about the explosion and its causes so far.
The disaster was preceded by a massive fire in the Beirut port, and videos on social media showed a cloud of white smoke emanating from Ward No. 12 in a warehouse located opposite the silos (silos) storing huge grains in the port.
Shortly after six o’clock local time (3 GMT), the warehouse caught fire, and there was a large initial explosion followed by a series of small explosions that, according to some eyewitnesses, looked like fireworks.
After about 30 seconds, a massive explosion occurred, sending a huge mushroom-shaped cloud into the air, and its thunderous storm spread across the city.
The second explosion destroyed buildings near the port and caused destruction and damage in many other neighborhoods of the capital, which are home to about two million people. Hospitals were quickly overwhelmed with the explosion victims, the wounded and the dead.
The head of the Lebanese Red Cross, George Kettani, said, “What we have witnessed is a terrible disaster. The victims and the wounded are everywhere.”
The Governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, said that a large number of the population, amounting to 300 thousand people, are temporarily homeless, and the total losses may amount to about 10 to 15 billion dollars.
How big is the explosion؟
The explosion destroyed the area of the berth, and behind a hole estimated at 140 meters wide, it was filled with sea water.
The warehouses that caught fire initially and explosions later were leveled on the ground, and the adjacent grain silos (storage silos) were severely damaged.
The satellite images showed a scene of great damage in the port area, and one of the ships in it appeared to have been thrown out of the seawater and fell on the pier due to the intensity of the blast.
As a result of the blast, windows were broken at the passenger gate at Beirut International Airport, which is located about nine kilometers from the site of the explosion in Beirut Port.
The sound of the explosion was heard on the island of Cyprus, 200 km in the Mediterranean. The earthquake experts at the Geological Survey Center in the United States of America said that the force of the explosion was equivalent to an earthquake of 3.3 on the Richter scale.
Photos of the port before and after the explosion
What are the causes of the explosion? ؟
Lebanese President Michel Aoun blamed the explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which he says was stored unsafe in a warehouse in the port.
A similar amount of ammonium nitrate was arrived on a cargo ship bearing the flag of Moldova called Mother of Rusus ( MV Rhosus), She landed at Beirut Port in 2013 due to technical problems, and was on a flight from Georgia to Mozambique.
The authorities searched the ship and prevented it from leaving, and after a short period the owners abandoned it, according to the “Shab Aristide Dot Km” bulletin, which is concerned with news of the detention of marine vessels.
It was subsequently reported that the ship’s cargo had been confiscated and transported to a warehouse in the port for safety reasons, and that it should have been offered for sale at auction or disposed of.
Ammonium nitrate is a crystalline odorless crystalline compound commonly used as agricultural fertilizer, and when mixed with fuel oils it leads to explosions that are often used in construction and mining works, and armed groups also used it to make explosives.
Experts say that ammonium nitrate is relatively safe if stored properly, but when a large amount of this substance is left for a long time it begins to decompose.
“The real problem is that drops of moisture condense and are absorbed by this substance over time, which ultimately causes it to turn into a solid mass similar to a large rock,” Andrea Sylla, a professor of chemistry at University College London, told the BBC.
This would make it more dangerous because if the fires hit it the chemical reaction would be much more intense.
Ammonium nitrate has been linked to a number of fatal industrial accidents; In 1947 a cargo ship carrying 2,000 tons of it exploded in Texas, USA, killing 581 people.
It appears that a fire caused an explosion of ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut.
LBCI station and Reuters news agency quoted sources as saying that the fire started as a result of the welding work that was taking place in ward 12 of the warehouse.
The director of Beirut Port, Hassan Quraytem, confirmed that maintenance work was taking place at the warehouse door prior to the explosion.
CNN quoted him as saying in a statement to “OTV” that “the state security asked to repair the warehouse door, and we did this in the afternoon, but I have no idea what happened in the afternoon.”
Who are the victims?
137 people were killed by the explosion; Among them is Jean-Marc Bonfils, a French architect born in Beirut who was involved in the process of restoring historic buildings in Beirut damaged during the Civil War, and was broadcasting a video clip directly on his Facebook page after the first explosion, but he was wounded in the second explosion and later died. French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said France and Lebanon were united in grief over his death.
The firefighter, Saher Faris, was the first to come to the site of the explosion, and his fiancée wrote a memorial to him on Instagram, in which she expressed her great sorrow for his loss, and published a photo on social networking sites that shows Saher and seven of his colleagues who are said to have all been killed in the explosion.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that a diplomat from the German embassy had died in her apartment.
The Abu Mari Marine Cruises Company, based in Lebanon, said that two people were killed and seven others were wounded; They were on board the Orient Queen ship, which was badly damaged by the explosion.
There are also reports of the killing of an American, Australian and two Egyptians in the explosion.
Who is to blame?
President Aoun promised to conduct a transparent investigation into the explosion and its circumstances.
After his visit to the devastated port of Beirut on Wednesday, he said, “We are determined to proceed with the investigations and uncover the circumstances of what happened as soon as possible and hold those responsible and negligent accountable and impose the most severe penalties for them. We will transparently announce the results of the investigations that will be conducted by the investigation committee.”
Prime Minister Hassan Diab described the circumstances that led to the explosion as “unacceptable”.
The director of the Beirut port, Hassan Quraitem, and the Lebanese customs director Badri Daher said that their warnings about the danger posed by stored ammonium nitrate and their calls for its removal have been repeatedly ignored.
Speaking to LBCI, Daher said, “We have requested that the shipment be re-exported, but this has not happened. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why this did not happen.”
And documents circulated on the Internet showed that customs officials sent letters to the judiciary requesting directions regarding dealing with the stored shipment at least six times between 2014 and 2017.
The government has ordered that all supervisors of the ammonium nitrate storage file in the port be placed under house arrest pending the investigation.
Many Lebanese question the government’s promises of a transparent investigation and hold officials accountable, and see the investigation as an attempt by a political elite accused of corruption, neglect and mismanagement to avoid holding it responsible for any disaster.