A day after the explosion in Beirut, Lebanese nationals are still out of shock. At present, the explosion occurred on the evening of the 4th local time, has killed at least 135 people, more than 5,000 injured, about 100 people are missing. The number of casualties is likely to rise further.
The number of victims of the explosion was the biggest blow to the Lebanese capital. Not only find the exact cause of the explosion, but also how to rebuild everything destroyed? Where will the 300,000 homeless people go? The most important logistics hub ruined, how to make up for it? Lebanon will face a series of problems brought about by this disaster.
Where did 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate come from?
Ship information website Shiparrested.com shows that in 2013, a cargo ship carrying 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. Flying the Moldovan flag, departed from Georgia Batumi Port to Mozambique. And docked at Beirut Port due to technical problems when it reached the waters near Lebanon. After that, due to various reasons, the ship and cargo were auctioned off, and the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate on board were unloaded to the port warehouse in the 12th district of Beirut Seaport until the explosion.
The head of the Beirut port, speaking a day after the explosion. Said that although there were some “dangerous materials” near the warehouse where ammonium nitrate was stored, however, it had not reached the level of “explosives”. He also said that Lebanon’s customs and state security services had previously sent a letter to dispose of the explosive material (ammonium nitrate), and that they had been “waiting for the solution for six years, but without any results”.
Welding sparks suspected of causing the explosion
The direct cause of the explosion in Lebanon was that when the staff inspected the warehouse, they found that they need to tight the warehouse door. During the process of welding the warehouse door with explosives, welding sparks ignited the explosives in the warehouse. And resulting in the ammonium nitrate stored in the warehouse exploded.
Ammonium nitrate Characteristics
Ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is a colorless, odorless transparent or white crystal. Easy to dissolve in water, easy to absorb wet lumps, low price, simple manufacturing. It used to a wide range of purposes. It used as an industrial catalyst and strong oxidants, but also as an organic nitrogen fertilizer for agricultural products. And the manufacture of pesticides, refrigerants, laughing gas, fireworks, etc., but also inseparable from it. In addition, many civil blasting equipment will also use this chemical raw material.
In general, its detonation is insensitive, extremely insensitive to the blast ingestion, completely insensitive to mechanical action. But has a deadly dangerous characteristic – inability to withstand high temperatures, almost see an open flame will react.
When storing ammonium nitrate in large quantities. If the ventilation is not smooth, then the lower layer of the storage material can not be exported heat in a timely manner, there may be spontaneous combustion. In addition, in the case of increased acidity or the presence of impurities such as chloride, ammonium nitrate decomposition temperature will also be reduced, the decomposition process is catalyzed, more explosive.
In addition, the paper shows that ammonium nitrate decomposition products are gaseous products. 1 kg of ammonium nitrate explosive explosion can produce 900 liters of gas. Released the gas in a short period of time, creating great pressure and airwaves. The mushroom cloud formed by the explosion in Lebanon is due to the shock waves and waves generated by the explosion, and the general civilian buildings are completely unaffordable.
Beirut Port Management
The port of Beirut, the largest seaport on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. And the largest of Lebanon’s 12 ports, is the most important port for the import and export of Lebanese goods and trans-shipment. Throughputs accounting for more than 80 percent of Lebanese imports and exports. According to statistics from the official website of the Port of Beirut in Lebanon, the number of containers handled in the port of Beirut increased from 465,000 TEUs in 2005 to 1.3 million cases in 2018, achieving a CAGR of 8.3 percent. While port revenues increased from US$89 million to US$313 million during this period, representing a CAGR of 107.35 percent.
Due to improper storage management, the forgotten 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate triggered a disaster with a lethality equivalent to a small nuclear bomb, leaving the port almost to pieces. The explosion exposed the major negligence of Beirut port management and embodied the serious loopholes in the management of hazardous chemicals in Beirut port. The Lebanese Prime Minister emphasized that “a truck carrying more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate parked in a warehouse for six years without taking any precautions. This is unacceptable.”