Lebanon Mourns As Huge Explosions Shook Beirut - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Lebanon Mourns As Huge Explosions Shook Beirut

    • ... Trump Says Explosion Looks Like Attack As UN Scribe Condoles With Lebanese




  • On Tuesday evening in Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut, two huge explosions in its port sent an enormous blast wave across the city, killing at least 78 people and injuring thousands more. The scale of the damage is huge, with buildings miles from the port lying in ruin. The blast comes at a terrible time for Lebanon, which is on the brink of financial collapse.
  • Lebanon’s prime minister, Hassan Diab, said the cause of the explosion was 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, common industrial chemical used in fertiliser and as a component in mining explosives. Diab declared a national day of mourning for the victims of the explosion. The warehouse that authorities claim was the site of the blast had been the subject of warnings going back to 2014, he said. He would “reveal facts” about the warehouse soon, he said, but did not want to pre-empt an investigation.
  • Hospitals that are already dealing with the coronavirus crisis were quickly filled beyond capacity, and issued pleas for blood donations and generators to keep the lights going.
  • Donald Trump has said the deadly explosion in Beirut “looks like a terrible attack”, contradicting the information coming from Lebanese officials. Asked whether he was “confident” the Lebanon explosion was “an attack and not an accident”, he told reporters: “Well it would seem like it, based on the explosion.” The president added he had met US generals and said they “seem to feel that it was”.
  • Lebanon’s Supreme Defence Council recommended declaring Beirut a disaster-stricken city, declaring a two-week state of emergency in the capital and handing over security responsibilities to military authorities. A council statement, read live on television, said President Michel Aoun has decided to release 100bn Lebanese pounds in emergency allocations from the 2020 budget.
  • Lebanon’s economy minister, Raoul Nehme, said the wheat in Beirut’s port granaries cannot be used and that the ministry lost track of seven employees in the granaries. The minister also told local media that Lebanon will import wheat and added that the country currently had enough wheat until imports resume.
  • There was confusion among residents over whether the air had become dangerous to breathe. The US embassy in Beirut released a statement advising people to wear masks and stay indoors, following “reports of toxic gases released in the explosion”. Many people’s windows where shattered by the blast making it difficult to avoid breathing the air outside. The American University of Beirut’s aerosol research lab’s indicators showed air quality levels had returned to “good” by 7pm, however, after showing “moderate” levels of particulate matter an hour earlier.
  • United Nations Secretary General António Guterres sent his condolences, saying, he “wishes a speedy recovery to the injured, including several United Nations personnel working in Lebanon.” At least 48 UN staff were injured in the blast, along with 27 of their dependents.
  • Governments worldwide have offered support, including the UK, France, Australia, the US, Canada and Israel.
  • An Australian citizen has been confirmed dead. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “It’s my deep regret to inform you that one Australian has been killed in this horrific blast” but did not reveal further details.
  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson offered the UK’s support and said that there were British nationals affected by the incident.
  • Source: The Guardian

Also, New York Times middle east correspondent (and all-round champion and friend) Vivian Yee has written a gut-wrenching account of the blast, despite having multiple injuries and several stapled in her forehead:

I was just about to look at a video a friend had sent me on Tuesday afternoon — “the port seems to be burning,” she said — when my whole building shook, as if startled, by the deepest boom I’d ever heard. Uneasily, naïvely, I ran to the window, then back to my desk to check for news.

Then came a much bigger boom, and the sound itself seemed to splinter. There was shattered glass flying everywhere. Not thinking but moving, I ducked under my desk.

...

Later, someone would tell me that Beirutis of her generation, who had been raised during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, instinctively ran into their hallways as soon as they heard the first blast, to escape the glass they knew would break.

I was not so well-trained, but the Lebanese who would help me in the hours to come had the heartbreaking steadiness that comes from having lived through countless previous disasters. Nearly all of them were strangers, yet they treated me like a friend.


However, 

Lebanon’s prime minister, Hassan Diab, said 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded after lying unsecured in a warehouse for six years, tallying with reports that a ship carrying a similar quantity of the chemical had unloaded its cargo at the port in 2013. It remains unclear what caused the chemical to ignite. Ammonium

 nitrate is a common industrial chemical used mainly for fertiliser because it is a good source of nitrogen for plants. It is also one of the main components in mining explosives.

Beirut blast: what we know so farRead more

It is not explosive on its own, rather it is an oxidiser, drawing oxygen to a fire – and therefore making it much more intense, according to Gabriel da Silva, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne:


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