The Spectator explains: Was ammonium nitrate the cause of the explosion in Beirut?

The Spectator explains: Was ammonium nitrate the cause of the explosion in Beirut?

The Lebanese government declared a day of national mourning. The tragedy that shakes the capital leaves almost a hundred dead and thousands injured. This Tuesday, two violent explosions produced in the port of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, devastated several blocks around.

See more: What caused the explosions in Beirut?

According to the director general of General Security. Abbas, Ibrahim, the explosions could have been caused by “highly explosive materials confiscated for years,” . That an investigation will determine the “exact nature of the incident.” Lebanese Interior Minister Mohamed Fehmi was more specific and confirm to MTV Lebanon that the explosion appears to have been caused by “large amounts of ammonium nitrate” stored in the port as they were heading to Africa.

Some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse in the port of Beirut. Prime Minister Hasan Diab said. “It is inadmissible that a shipment of ammonium nitrate, estimated at 2,750 tons. It has been in a warehouse for six years. Without preventive measures,” said the prime minister during the meeting of the Higher Defense Council.

“This is unacceptable and we cannot remain silent on this issue,” he added. “We will not have a break until we find the person responsible for what happened to be held accountable,” the prime minister promised.

What is ammonium nitrate?


It is a chemical compound that can decompose explosively but under certain circumstances. Such as heat, a blow, or a previous explosion or fire. After the tragedy in Beirut, the chemists explain in the European press that, “if you talk about ammonium nitrate, its decomposition into two molecules is very explosive and gives off a lot of heat, generates an exogenous reaction and produces explosions. But they clarify that this is why there needs to be a nearby source of ignition like a fire. This compound is widely used in the manufacture of fertilizers.

Was there nitrate in the port of Beirut?


Yes, it is confirmed that large quantities of ammonium nitrate were in the port of the Lebanese capital, authorities said. The Director-General of Customs told another Lebanese news channel. Al Mayadeen, in which he stated that the accident was related to deposits of highly flammable materials.

See more: Shocking images of the explosions in Beirut, Lebanon

According to images released by the Lebanese media, the second detonation, the most violent, occurred inside an explosive material warehouse, after a fire in the wheat silos located in these facilities, according to data provided by the Lebanese National News Agency (ANN).

The Guardian newspaper analyst Peter Beaumont notes that “one of the most common nitrates in industrial use is ammonium nitrate, used in fertilizers. It’s generally not that explosive in its own right. ”

Ammonium nitrite and its effects
“When ammonium nitrate has been used in homemade explosives. By the IRA and far-right Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, among others. It mix with other materials and detonated with a small amount of a more conventional explosive,” he added in The Guardian, Beaumont.

“And slowed down frame by frame, the video on social media shows a very symmetrical second explosion. that takes place at ground level at the same time, throwing a wall of dust. A cloud into the air at tremendous speed. It suggests releasing a large amount of energy. Which in turn creates a devastating pressure wave that carries debris for at least a kilometer. ”

Other tragedies with ammonium nitrite


One of the earliest remembered disasters with ammonium nitrite occurred on April 2, 1916, at a factory in Faversham, UK. The place exploded after a fire spread to a store of 25 tons of TNT and 700 tons of ammonium nitrate. 115 people died and the damage reached another side of the Thames estuary.

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What happened in Lebanon reminds many of the great disaster in Texas, USA On April 16, 1947, workers on the French ship were finishing loading a batch of ammonium nitrate. A product that had been used by the army. American as an explosive during World War II. As soon as a worker smelled smoke but there was no time for more seconds later. A terrible explosion took place that cost the lives of 581 people, 3,500 wounded and losses worth 150 million dollars. A catastrophe without comparison in the history of the United States that describe at the time as “worse than the devastation caused by the war.”

See more: On video, the Beirut explosions

In 2013, Texas relived that nightmare. A fire at a fertilizer plant in West, Waco, left 15 dead and 200 wounded. The explosion occurred at West Fertilizer, located in a residential area of ​​West. West Mayor Tommy Muska likened it to a nuclear blast that released a huge mushroom cloud. A 50-apartment destroy many building 75 houses near the plant. Investigators said 20 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded causing the tragedy.

The most recent on record occurred in 2015 in China, in the city of Tianjin. A dangerous goods warehouse spontaneously burned after overheating and caused a fire that 40 minutes later caused the detonation of approximately 800 tons of ammonium nitrate stored nearby. The balance 110 workers and 55 nearby residents died from the explosion: 798 people were injured.