The Beirut explosion was (another) catastrophic event caused by carelessness, that happened on Tuesday. The event has been the top subject on news channels and social media for the last few days. The live video of the catastrophic explosion went viral and left the public speechless. Reporters and photographers were avid for commenting and reporting on the disastrous explosion.
The Lebanese 9/11?
I hope I will not offend anyone with this statement. Looking at the documented aftermath, the photographs are almost identical to the ones describing another catastrophic event, in New York: 9/11. The massive amount of destruction and the genuine humanity that the photos depict remind me of the tragedy that left many families mourn, 19 years ago.
Background – or how 2.750 tons of ammonium nitrate were left there for 7 years
The exact and official cause of the Beirut explosion is still uncertain. However, it has to do with 2.750 tons of ammonium nitrate, in the shape of fireworks, from a nearby warehouse. Ammonium nitrate is an explosive fertilizer. Even though not flammable in its pure form, it can decompose in many ways when heated. The reaction may release several gases and more heat. Reaching a certain level of heat, it can produce an explosion, especially when mixed with carbon compounds such as fuel oil. Therefore, the real cause must be an open fire nearby, but authorities are still investigating.
People in charge confiscated the ammonium nitrate from a Russian-owned, Moldovan-flagged cargo ship in September 2013. The ship ended up at the port due to technical problems. For 7 years, port authorities failed to deal with the material on the ship.
What officials have to say?
Authorities have 5 days, starting Tuesday, to report the conclusion of their investigation.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun expressed his concern regarding the explosion, as “unacceptable”, promising the “harshest punishment” for those found culpable.
Al Jazeera reported that senior Lebanese officials knew about the ammonium nitrate. Port authorities had been trying to get rid of the explosive by sending several letters to a judge between 2014 and 2017, requesting assistance to export or sell the material, according to Reuters. However, they received no reply.
Even the Lebanese Customs Administration director Badri Daher showed his concern regarding the dangerous substance. He addressed this issue again, back in 2017. Then, he admitted “the danger … of leaving these goods in the place they are, and to those working there.”
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab confirmed on Tuesday that the explosion was a “great national disaster” and promised that “all those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price.”
Reports so far
Today, the numbers show at least 135 people killed and over 5000 wounded. It is likely that these numbers will rise, as many are still missing and more than 300.000 lost their homes. The explosion created seismic waves equivalent of a magnitude 3.3 earthquake. This confirms that, indeed, the human carelessness has caused yet another catastrophic event.