Late on Tuesday August 4th , two huge explosions in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut sent a massive blast wave across the city killing at least 100 people and injuring thousands more.
The explosion happened in the port of the city. Officials are blaming it on highly explosive materials stored in a warehouse there for six years.
The warehouse was said to contain 2,750 tonnes of Ammonium nitrate. Which is not explosive on its own, rather it is an oxidiser, drawing oxygen to a fire – and therefore making it much more intense. if the chemical itself is contaminated, for example with oil, it becomes highly explosive.
Gabriel da Silva, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne said to the BBC, ““I think that’s what’s happened here,”
While the chemicals in the air should dissipate fairly quickly, lingering pollutants can cause problems later, for example if they acidify rain. “If you look at the smoke that came from the blast it’s this kind of blood red colour. That’s because of the nitrogen oxide air pollutants in it,” he said.
The blast is being described as the fifth largest accidental explosion on the planet. An investigation is under way to find the exact trigger for the explosion. Lebanon’s Supreme Defence Council said those responsible would face the “maximum punishment” possible.
There are differing reports about the scale of the impact across Beirut. Some reports, based on statements from Beirut governor Marwan Abboud, suggest hundreds have lost their homes. While MTV news has reported that 250,000 people have been left homeless.
Hospitals across Beirut were already struggling with the covid-19 pandemic have put out pleas for blood donations and generators to keep the power on.
President Aoun declared a three-day mourning period and said the government would release 100 billion lira (£50.5m; $66m) of emergency funds.
Many countries such as France, Israel are providing aid to help Lebanon. With Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the UK is ready to provide any support it could to help.
Feature Image Credit: Al Jazeera