On August 4, 2020, the entire world was shaken by a devastating explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, which people soon began to call the “Beirut Blast.” Since then, various facts about the Beirut Blasts, ranging from its cause to its effects, have come to light, slowly revealing a clear picture regarding the state of affairs in Lebanon.
Shock waves spread across the city, and mushroom clouds of toxic smoke filled the sky as the world reeled from shock. The effects and aftereffects of the explosion were massive and left the entire nation of Lebanon gutted.
Here are 10 facts that you absolutely must know about the Beirut Blast.
1. One of the Largest Non-Nuclear Explosions Ever
The Beirut Blast, caused by the explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that was in a storage warehouse, contained the strength equivalent of 1 to 1.5 tons of TNT, according to the experts.
It also should be noted that the explosion caused during the Oklahoma City Bombing contained only about 2.5 tons of Ammonium Nitrate. This makes the Beirut Blast one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in the world.
The seismic waves caused by the explosion registered from 3.3 to 4.5 on the Richter scale underground despite the blast being on the surface. According to the experts, the blast had one-tenth of the intensity of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima causing the end of World War II. (1, 2, 3, 4)
2. MV Rhosus – The Ship Behind the Explosion
The ammonium nitrate that blew up during the explosion was from the cargo of a ship named MV Rhosus. The ship belonged to a Russian businessman named Igor Grechushkin, and it was brought to that port in 2014.
The ship sailed from Batumi, Georgia, in September 2013, heading towards Beira, Mozambique. While sailing through the eastern Mediterranean, the ship was brought into the Beirut port as it suffered technical issues. The ship was deemed unseaworthy by the port officials when it docked in Beirut to take on more cargo and resolve technical issues.
After the ship was barred from sailing further, the impounded cargo was stored in Warehouse 12 in the port of Beirut. According to the ship’s former captain, Boris Prokoshev, Grechushkin abandoned the ship and its crew to its fate after it was impounded.
According to the captain, the new cargo load that was to be taken on board contained machinery which the ship was not equipped to take on. After the ship was impounded, Grechushkin left for Cyprus, a common destination for wealthy Russians, leaving the crew stranded in Beirut.
3. What is ammonium nitrate? How dangerous is it?
Ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is a chemical compound that contains ions of ammonium and nitrate. The usual form of ammonium nitrate is a white crystalline substance that is highly soluble in water. Ammonium nitrate is usually used as a nitrogen-based fertilizer by farmers in agricultural sectors.
However, the chemical compound is incredibly volatile, and when put under the stress of heat and pressure, can easily cause an explosion in the mining areas. It is a known terrorist weapon that is used predominantly in bombings.
During the explosion, ammonium nitrate is capable of producing poisonous gases like nitrogen oxide and ammonia gas. The rising orange plume is an indication of the presence of nitrogen dioxide, which is often associated with air pollution, interacting with the atmosphere.
The shock waves that resulted from the explosion were seen and felt throughout the city. From weddings to vacations, the entire city was affected by the shock wave that was generated from the explosion. There were many instances where people captured the effects of the blast on live cameras.
Videos captured show white smoke billowing from a fire in a warehouse located in the port. A spherical cloud of water vapor formed at the location as the shockwave raced outward, shattering everything in its path. (1, 2, 3, 4)
4. City-wide destruction devastates Beirut
It is reported that the Beirut port is entirely devastated by the explosion. The destruction brought on by the explosion was so massive that the port is no longer operational, and many sections of it were leveled to the ground.
Unfortunately, the swath of destruction didn’t end there. According to reports, a section of Beirut’s shoreline has also been destroyed due to the explosion. The overturned cars and stripped steel-framed buildings were just the icings on the cake.
Moreover, 90% of hotels and three hospitals were destroyed completely due to the explosion. The people of Beirut, who were rushed to the hospital after the explosion, were left to be treated in the streets.
The damage from the blast effectively crippled over half of the city. The material loss is alone being calculated in billions. Landmarks, museums, ships, and several other aspects of the city took massive damage during the explosion. (source)