What Caused the Explosion in Beirut?

A shocking explosion ripped through Beirut’s streets on August 4, 2020. It killed at least 200 people, caused 5,000 injuries, and leveled several city blocks.

Before the explosion occurred, a large fire developed in Warehouse 12 at the Port of Beirut. White smoke billowed into the sky until the roof caught fire. Once that happened, a massive initial explosion occurred, followed by some smaller ones, until a mushroom cloud sent a blast wave throughout the city.

Authorities believe that welding work was responsible for starting the initial fire. A door at the warehouse was ordered fixed that day. 

About 300,000 people were left homeless immediately. Lebanon blamed the event on 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the warehouse.

A similar event happened in Texas in 1947. A ship carrying 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded, killing almost 600 people.

How Big Was the Explosion?

The explosive event was approximately 10% of the size of the atomic weapon unleashed on Hiroshima. That makes it one of the most gigantic non-nuclear explosions in history.

Once the fires were put out, a crater almost 500 feet wide was discovered. It was eventually filled with seawater.

A ship was blasted out of the water when the shockwave went through the city. Windows at Beirut’s airport broke from the event even though it was five miles away.

People in Cyprus heard the explosion when it happened. Seismologists analyzing the area said that the ground shook at the equivalency of a 3.3-magnitude earthquake.

Among the victims of the explosion was the renowned architect Jean-Marc Bonfils. He was involved in the restoration work happening in the city after the recent civil war. Bonfils was broadcasting on Facebook live after the first explosion, but he was injured in the second one.

Some first responders who were coming to assess the damage after the first massive explosion were caught in the second one, dying instantly. Five nurses who were responding to the scene were killed while helping others.

Most of the government resigned six days later, although no one was willing to take responsibility for the ammonium nitrate’s oversight.