Huge explosion in Beirut

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PS_RalphW
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Post by PS_RalphW »

Massive explosion in Beirut. This may not seem directly linked to Covid, but the virus has triggered a collapse of the currency and rising tensions between sects as food import prices have left the poor increasingly hungry.

Initial reports of a high speed low level jet over the port before the blast, possibly of an explosives or munitions store. There was also a fire in the area at the time.

Casualties likely to be heavy

Edit

Video on guardian Web site shows initial black cloud rising with small secondary flashes in it, followed by massive explosion a few seconds later with mushroom cloud and shock wave but little extra smoke. Damage radius measured in miles
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adam2
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Post by adam2 »

Hopefully this was a conventional explosion, and not a small nuke ?

Edit to add, later reports suggest an ammonium nitrate explosion. No credible reports suggest a nuke.
Last edited by adam2 on Tue Aug 04, 2020 8:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by kenneal - lagger »

Channel 4 News is reporting it to be an Ammonium Nitrate explosion, fertilizer. I didn't see anything about how it started though.
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Post by adam2 »

That does sound more likely than my doomer fear about a small nuke.
Ammonium nitrate is dangerous in bulk, ISTR a huge explosion in China some years ago that was due to improper handling of ammonium nitrate, the scale of destruction in china WAS comparable to a small nuke, but there was no radiation of course.
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Post by clv101 »

I guess due to the original fire, there were hundreds of video cameras recording it. Twitter has every angle covered. Lots of little flashes/explosions in the seconds before the big bang.
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Post by vtsnowedin »

I have to ask why anyone would store that much fertilizer in a city?
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Post by adam2 »

vtsnowedin wrote:I have to ask why anyone would store that much fertilizer in a city?
Because it was convenient for the port ?
Because it was cheap ?
Because "we always have"
And it must be safe because "we have bought all the right permits and certificates"

This is not the first large disaster involving ammonium nitrate and I doubt that it will be the last.
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BritDownUnder
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Post by BritDownUnder »

adam2 wrote:That does sound more likely than my doomer fear about a small nuke.
Ammonium nitrate is dangerous in bulk, ISTR a huge explosion in China some years ago that was due to improper handling of ammonium nitrate, the scale of destruction in china WAS comparable to a small nuke, but there was no radiation of course.
China also has some 'funny' fireworks factory explosions as well.

My uncle remembered the Fauld explosion during WW2 and one day we tried to find the crater from it but it was too overgrown and inaccessible.
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Post by vtsnowedin »

adam2 wrote:
vtsnowedin wrote:I have to ask why anyone would store that much fertilizer in a city?
Because it was convenient for the port ?
Because it was cheap ?
Because "we always have"
And it must be safe because "we have bought all the right permits and certificates"

This is not the first large disaster involving ammonium nitrate and I doubt that it will be the last.
You are certainly correct in all of that. Still doesn't make it very smart.
As to accidental explosions this one eclipses the 1917 Halifax Nova Scotia disaster.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHZZVUv4Sis
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Post by Potemkin Villager »

As far as I am aware nitrate fertiliser does not spontaneously combust. If it did I would be very wary of the large stacks of bags of fertiliser that appear in the yard of our local agricultural co-op every spring!
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Post by kenneal - lagger »

It doesn't spontaneously combust but it doesn't take a lot to set it off shown in Beirut. Ammonium nitrate is the base for both explosives and fertilizer. It was originally used as an explosive during WW2 and the manufacturers looked for an alternative use after the war to keep the factories going. Fertilizer was the obvious choice for them so we were one more step along the way to chemical farming.

It was also the explosive of choice for the IRA until the government insisted on an inhibitor being incorporated to reduce the explosion risk. It didn't remove the risk entirely but it just required a bigger bang to set it off.
Last edited by kenneal - lagger on Wed Aug 05, 2020 1:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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adam2
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Post by adam2 »

Ammonium nitrate is not AFAIK liable to spontaneous combustion or explosion.
It can however explode if subjected to heat or mechanical shock.

It is not a particularly powerful explosive, this may seem surprising if viewing the recent devastation, but remember that thousands of tons were involved. A much lesser weight of modern military or civilian explosive would probably have produced similar damage.

Ammonium nitrate fertiliser sold in the UK is subject to certain restrictions to reduce the risks. IIRC, it must consist of relatively large granules and not fine powder. Also possibly restrictions on percentage of ammonium nitrate in the product.
Ammonium nitrate was widely used by the IRA for bomb making, and restrictions introduced to render it less attractive for such purposes.

Bulk ammonium nitrate fertiliser should still be stored away from homes and also away from fuel stores
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Post by kenneal - lagger »

I think that ammonium nitrate with added diesel is used for blasting in quarries.
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Post by vtsnowedin »

kenneal - lagger wrote:I think that ammonium nitrate with added diesel is used for blasting in quarries.
Yes and on construction sites. Here the premixed product is called AMFO. As it readily pours into boreholes it fills cracks and crevasses and is cheaper per length of hole then Dynamite. Normal use is to place one capped stick of dynamite or other high explosive at the bottom of the hole then fill with amfo to within three feet of the top then cap with stemming stone(3/8" crushed rock.)to keep the explosion from rifling up out of the hole.
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Post by PS_RalphW »

The explosion was next to the national grain store. 80+% of the nation's grain is now in a contaminated heap clearly visible in the videos. Lebanon is now facing serious hunger as the country imports a high percentage of it's food, the largest port is out of action, it's national reserve have been destroyed, the currency has fallen 80% in value this year, and unemployment is 40%.

And they are in the middle of a pandemic

This is what national collapse looks like
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