Earlier today, August 5, the city of Beirut in Lebanon was rocked by an explosion that might have been caused by a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored in their port.
The explosion followed a fire that broke out in their port, as videos of the scene surfaced on the internet. According to Abbas Ibrahim, chief of the Lebanese General Security, the substance was confiscated at their port as it exceeded the acceptable amount of such lethal substance for shipping.
Moreover, a tweet from the Lebanese President’s official Twitter account said that around 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were stored in their port for six years. Ammonium nitrate is a substance that is highly explosive when “exposed to an open flame or other ignition source” or when it decomposes into nitrous oxide and water vapor at a rapid pace.
Victims of the Blast
The blast at the port of Beirut has injured at least 4,000 individuals—eight of which are Filipinos—and killed over 70 people—including two Filipinos. Eleven Filipinos were also reported missing from the explosion.
Notable Lebanese personalities were also affected by the blast such as Nizar Najarian, the secretary-general of the Kataeb political party, who has been confirmed dead, and Kamal Hayek, the chairman of Lebanon’s state-owned electric company, who is in critical condition. (Read: A Prayer for Guidance and Protection Every Day)
Because of the volume of people being rushed to hospitals in the country’s capital, hospital staff had no choice but to turn away patients as they have already reached maximum capacity. Injured patients are already being sent to hospitals outside of Beirut so they could be treated. Aside from that, it also caused windows to shatter, shards of glass to fly everywhere, and buildings to shake.
The Governor of Beirut, Marwan Abboud, said the blast reminded him of what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. “In my life, I haven’t seen destruction on this scale.” He also called it a “national catastrophe,” and the Prime Minister of Lebanon has already declared a national day of mourning. (Read: 4 Spiritual Prayers for Mourners of the Dead)
Israel, who has been in conflict with Lebanon for years, denied involvement in the explosion and even offered humanitarian medical assistance. The United Nations and the French government likewise offered aid for the devastated country.
On behalf of the #UN, Special Coordinator @UNJanKubis offered to #Lebanon PM @Hassan_B_Diab humanitarian &other assistance in wake of the tragic catastrophe in #Beirut. Newly arrived Deputy SCL/Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi will coordinate it w/ the respective authorities
— UNSCOL (@UNSCOL) August 4, 2020
According to GFZ, the geosciences center of Germany, the explosion had a force similar to that of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake. (Read: Blessed Sacrament Found Intact As Fire Razes Santo Niño Church in Manila)
Another incident where a large amount of ammonium nitrate was used for an explosion was in 1995 when Timothy McVeigh created a bomb using two tons of the substance mixed with fuel oil in a domestic terrorist attack in the US. The explosion killed 168 people in Oklahoma City.