Beirut in Apocalyptic Ruin – The Aftermath of Tuesday’s Explosions
Yesterday’s two massive explosions left Beirut in what is being described as “apocalyptic ruin.” The entire Port is “gone” and all of the grain silos completely flattened – 85% of Lebanon’s grain was in those silos. Upwards of 300,000 people are now homeless due to the explosions that devastated their buildings. Hundreds of Beirut citizens are still missing. Damages are estimated at between $3 Billion – $5 Billion.
“The silos…contain essential grain reserves including wheat, corn, and barley. Lebanon, which imports up to 80 percent of its food needs, is particularly reliant on imported soft wheat to make Arabic flatbread, a national staple.” Al-Arabiya News.
The death toll has been revised upwards, as expected, to over 100, and the injured also revised to nearly 5,000. (The Guardian) The blast was attributed to 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the port for the last 6 years after being confiscated by port authorities.
Port officials that have overseen all storage since 2014 have been placed under house arrest, according to Forbes.
The Lebanese government declared an emergency that will last about 2 weeks and be renewable, as well as a 3 day lockdown. The emergency declaration releases 100 Billion Lebanese pounds for disaster relief, and payments to the families of “martyrs”. It also provides for funds to purchase repair materials, and “restricts the sale of flour to ovens.” It “handed over” security in the Capitol to the military. (Read more at NNA)
The major problem is that Lebanon is on the brink of financial disaster after the COVID pandemic. This disaster could not have come at a worse time.
The cause of Beirut’s apocalyptic ruin: ammonium nitrate
Andrea Sella, professor of chemistry at University College London, told the BBC that on its own, ammonium nitrate is relatively safe to handle. But…
“The real problem is that over time it will absorb little bits of moisture and it eventually turns into an enormous rock. This makes it more dangerous because if a fire reaches it, the chemical reaction will be much more intense.”
The chemical explosion could also release deadly toxins of nitrogen dioxide (often associated with air pollution) and ammonia gas. The mushroom cloud, Sella said, was caused by the compressed air of the shockwave that expanded rapidly and cooled suddenly.
Featured photo: Screenshot of the Beirut Port before and after via Hurriyet Daily News