Things went from bad to worse in Lebanon today, explosion in the port of Beirut. A fire in a fireworks warehouse spread to an adjacent warehouse containing tons ammonium nitrate. Al Jazeera reports it was seized, other sources have said it was salvaged from a sunken vessel. Very similar to the Texas City Disaster.
Coming on the heels of a spate of bombings and suspicious accidents in Iran that Israel smirkingly denied, as well as heightened tensions between Lebanon and Israel this is certainly something to monitor.
A decade ago an entire borough of the city of Enschede was wiped of the face of the earth by a firework explosion. 23 people were killed, including four firefighters, approximately 950 people were injured, and 200 homes were destroyed. The Enschede police had already nine years in advance of the explosion been warned about a possible fireworks disaster at the S.E. Fireworks but no action was taken. The authorities at their best again. The stupidity of having a firework storage allowed in the middle of a highly populated city area…
See at the end a slow motion take of the explosion.
Cruise ship ORIENT QUEEN, berthed at Beirut near blast site, was seriously damaged, started taking on water, capsized and sank starboard along berth, remaining partially above waterline. 2 crew reportedly (but not yet confirmed) died.
It is unnerving to read that the Lebanese legal system is in fact guilty of the explosion by not taking a decision what to do with the confiscated cargo.
Various customs officials had sent letters to judges requesting a resolution to the issue of the confiscated cargo, proposing that the ammonium nitrate either be exported, given to the Army, or sold to the private Lebanese Explosives Company. Letters had been sent on 27 June 2014, 5 December 2014, 6 May 2015, 20 May 2016, 13 October 2016, and 27 October 2017. One of the letters sent in 2016 noted that judges had not replied to previous requests, and “pleaded” for a resolution due to the “serious danger of keeping these goods in the hangar in unsuitable climatic conditions”. The fears of Port Officials would be proven justified, as the cargo of the ship would help ignite an explosion in the Port of Beirut, killing over 135 people, and injuring over 5,000.
They say ammonium nitrate is actually quite hard to ignite on it’s own, there needs to be something to set it off.
In the videos of the Beirut explosion you can see and hear what looks like to be fireworks going off before the big explosion, there is speculation if it was fireworks or ammunition on fire that was being stored near the ammonium nitrate that set it off.
In the early 1970s we carried seismic charges from Singapore to Sorong. The main charges were ammonium nitrate packed in cylinders of cardboard… Secondary charges and blasting caps to set it off were carried separately.
The whole thing were treated as explosives, requiring a “magazine” made of wood with rice bags stowed around it. Armed guard at loading and discharging.
Loading ammonium nitrate fertilizer in bags were just ordinary cargo. No special stowage or other precautions.