Port of Beirut Explosion kills 73, injures 3,700

Port of Beirut Explosion kills 73, injures 3,700

ExplosionPort of Beirut Explosion kills 73, injures 3,700


Published 4 August 2020

A massive explosion late afternoon Tuesday at the warehouse section of the port of Beirut, Lebanon, killed more 73 and injured nearly 4,000, flattening buildings, shattering glass, and spreading fire. There were two explosions. The first, and much smaller one, was at a warehouse storing fireworks. But that explosion triggered the massive explosion next door, in a sprawling warehouse which stored 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical which was downloaded from a commercial ship in 2014 and which was supposed to be stored at the site only temporarily (for comparison: Timothy McVeigh used 1.8 tons of ammonium nitrate to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995). The number of dead and injured is likely to rise, as an untold number of people are still buried under collapsed buildings. Lebanese authorities say that many bodies may never be found because they were likely destroyed by the immense explosion or incinerated in the intense fires which follow.



A massive explosion late afternoon Tuesday at the warehouse section of the port of Beirut, Lebanon, killed more 73 and injured nearly 4,000, flattening buildings, shattering glass, and spreading fire.


The official presidential residence and the home of former prime minister Rafik Harriry were slightly damaged by the explosion.


The number of dead and injured is likely to rise, as an untold number of people are still buried under collapsed buildings. Lebanese authorities say that many bodies may never be found because they were likely destroyed by the immense explosion or incinerated in the intense fires which follow.


The head of the Beirut fire department said that this was likely the fate of about two dozen firemen who rushed to deal with the first, and smaller, of the two explosions, but were met with the much larger explosion as they arrived on the scene.


There were explosions. The first, and much smaller one, was at a warehouse storing fireworks. But that explosion triggered the massive explosion next door, in a sprawling warehouse which stored, apparently illegally, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical which was downloaded from a commercial ship in 2014. The ship was on its way to Syria, which was under strict embargo at the time because of the civil war which started there in 2011 (for comparison: Timothy McVeigh used 1.8 tons of ammonium nitrate to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995). 


The chemicals were supposed to be stored at the port only temporarily, then moved to a safer location away from residential areas.


The mayor of Beirut said that the owners of the warehouse, who failed to follow instructions to move the chemicals out, will be held to account.


“It is unacceptable that a cargo of ammonium nitrate, estimated at 2,750 tons, has been stored for six years in a warehouse, without precautionary measures. This is unacceptable and we cannot be silent on this issue,” the Lebanese prime minister said.


Initial speculations revolved around a possible Israeli attack on a arms warehouse of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shi’a militia, but an attack with so many civilian casualties is not typical of Israel’s strategy in what Israel calls the “campaign between wars,” that is, the low-level retaliatory strikes against Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, and the Assad regime.


When Israel is engaged in a full-fledged war, it is has shown little hesitation in attacking military targets even is such attacks killed many civilians.


Israel has denied any connection to the explosion and offered humanitarian aid to Lebanon. Several Israeli hospitals in northern Israel said they were ready to receive injured Lebanese.

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