Massive blast in Beirut, Lebanon

  • Thread starter davenn
  • Start date
In summary: The belief it was welding that started a fire, which caused explosion #1 which caused explosion #2.In summary,Some reports say that a large chemical / nitrate storage area is what caused the explosion in Beirut. The explosion destroyed multiple buildings and killed many people.
  • #1
davenn
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2023 Award
9,604
10,465


Apparently a a large chemical / nitrate storage area
 
  • Wow
  • Like
Likes OmCheeto and Drakkith
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
davenn said:
Apparently a a large chemical / nitrate storage area
Some updates are saying now that it was explosive materials taken from a ship a couple years ago and stored in the port. Not sure how well this has been vetted so far...

https://www.cnn.com/middleeast/live...s-dle-intl/h_e6713bdae252e2feee83a4e3263c09ac

1596577164017.png
 
  • #4
It looked like an ammo dump going up. The explosion occurred in warehouse where a large amount (estimated 2,750 tons) of ammonium nitrate was stored. Nobody in their right mind stores that amount of ammonium nitrate in one place, and not in a populated area. Remember Texas City, April 16, 1947.

A mid-morning fire started on board the French-registered vessel SS Grandcamp (docked in the port), and detonated her cargo of about 2,200 tons (about 1,996 metric tons) of ammonium nitrate.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_City_disaster
Beirut had more than the Grandcamp.
 
  • Like
  • Wow
Likes nuuskur, Klystron, berkeman and 3 others
  • #5
Wow. What an absolutely massive blast. You can literally see buildings, cars, etc just evaporating as the shockwave hits them...

My heart goes out to the people of Beirut.
 
  • Like
Likes davenn
  • #6
Beirut shockwave videos

 
  • #7
Astronuc said:
It looked like an ammo dump going up. The explosion occurred in warehouse where a large amount (estimated 2,750 tons) of ammonium nitrate was stored. Nobody in their right mind stores that amount of ammonium nitrate in one place, and not in a populated area. Remember Texas City, April 16, 1947.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_City_disaster
Beirut had more than the Grandcamp.

If the ammonium nitrate wasn't stacked all in one pile, some of it can just be blown away by the explosion and not participate in it. Maybe that's why there seem to have been less victims that in the Texas City disaster.

Metal impurities like copper can make NH4NO3 more shock-sensitive by forming coordination compounds with it (http://www.wydawnictwa.ipo.waw.pl/cejem/Vol-14-Number-1-2017/Kunzel.pdf).
 
  • #8
Multiple views
 
  • Like
  • Wow
Likes Astronuc, Klystron and davenn
  • #9
The loss of life and the huge number of injuries is tragic and it's really sad to see a city destroyed like this, having done so well to recover after civil war

BUT leaving that aside and looking at it coldly, these videos are spectacular. The way you see the blast wave coming and then, in nearly all of them, you hear it as it clatters the photographer.
 
  • Like
Likes Drakkith
  • #10
rsk said:
BUT leaving that aside and looking at it coldly, these videos are spectacular. The way you see the blast wave coming and then, in nearly all of them, you hear it as it clatters the photographer.

Nuclear test videos have less actual harm involved. Impressive as an example of what people are able to produce.

 
  • #11
hilbert2 said:
Maybe that's why there seem to have been less victims that in the Texas City disaster.

More likely it's because the population density in Beirut is 60x higher.
 
  • #12
If interested in the root cause, Google MV Rhosus.
 
  • Informative
  • Like
Likes nsaspook, hutchphd, hilbert2 and 2 others
  • #13
@davenn I'm curious if the explosion showed up on your seismic detector.
 
  • #14
Here's a before and after.

beruit_harbor_before_and_after.jpg
 
  • Wow
Likes nuuskur
  • #15
Borg said:
Here's a before and after.
In looking at the two pictures, at first I was thinking, "No, that looks to be a different part of the port. The shape of the water inlet looks different." And then I realized that it's because of the giant hole in the ground from the explosion that is now filled with water. Yikes!
 
  • Like
Likes DaveC426913, Klystron and Drakkith
  • #16
Vanadium 50 said:
More likely it's because the population density in Beirut is 60x higher.

Not sure what you mean, seems to me like the higher population density should lead to more casualties, not less.

Unless somehow the high density population was more distant from the blast itself.
 
  • #17
I had the sign backwards.
 
  • Like
Likes Borek
  • #18
Borg said:
@davenn I'm curious if the explosion showed up on your seismic detector.
It was definitely detected seismically in Cyprus


That's a great twitter account to follow if seismic rumblings are your thing.
 
  • #19
This CNN article has some well done before and after comparisons.
Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 1.49.27 PM.png
 
  • #20
Here's an update to my previous one. According to CNN, that's a 400 foot diameter crater.

Beirut_before_and_after.jpg
 
  • Wow
  • Like
  • Informative
Likes davenn, Evo and nsaspook
  • #21
Borg said:
Here's an update to my previous one. According to CNN, that's a 400 foot diameter crater.

View attachment 267332
Shocking and upsetting due to the number of dead and injured. What first building was on fire and why did it start? Were the chemicals that exploded in the 2nd building?
 
  • #22
Evo said:
What first building was on fire and why did it start?

The belief it was welding that started a fire, which caused explosion #1 which caused explosion #2.
 
  • Like
Likes Evo
  • #23
From 6 December 1917,
SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship laden with high explosives, collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo in the Narrows, a strait connecting the upper Halifax Harbour to Bedford Basin. A fire on board the French ship ignited her cargo, causing a massive explosion that devastated the Richmond district of Halifax. Approximately 2,000 people were killed by the blast, debris, fires, or collapsed buildings, and an estimated 9,000 others were injured. The blast was the largest man-made explosion at the time, releasing the equivalent energy of roughly 2.9 kilotons of TNT (12,000 GJ).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halifax_Explosion The Halifax explosion predated the Texas City explosion by 30 years.

The Beirut explosion is about 2.7 kT of ammonium nitrate, which should not have been stored altogether, precisely because we know what happens when it goes up like Halifax or Texas City.
 
  • Like
Likes davenn and Lnewqban
  • #24
Borg said:
@davenn I'm curious if the explosion showed up on your seismic detector.

too small and too far

I heard on TV news last nite a guy in Turkey ( from memory) recorded it as ~ M 3.3 - 3.5
Typically a M3.5 would be recorded out to about 300 kmD
 
  • Informative
Likes berkeman
  • #25
Astronuc said:
which should not have been stored altogether
People seem to like storing stuff altogether, even when they know it is unsafe, until disaster strikes, and then in hindsight...

Some fingers are starting to point to lay, or deflect blame, and I wonder if Lebanon is any different than any other place.

I remember the tire dump fire in Quebec a few years ago, as always, affecting people in the thousands.
It burned for some days billowing black smoke.
A few explosions from fuel storage tanks also mixed into the pile.
A crane had been used to pile tires to an estimated height of 13 m at the east end of the pile, nearest the stream. Beyond the reach of the crane, however, the average height of the tire pile was only about 3.5 m. In total, the pile covered an area of 31,000 m2 to an average depth of 3.5 m, with a mound approximately 13 m high stretching for about 20 m at one end. It is very difficult to estimate the number of tires contained in the pile, given that large truck tires were mixed with smaller automobile tires. It may be more accurate to characterize the size of the fuel load by the overall volume of the pile, rather than the number of tires. In this case, the total volume of tires is estimated to have been about 125,000 m3.
Now everyone knows how difficult it is to put a tire fire out, but, I guess, since no incident had ever happened there, yet, the site was allowed to keep adding to the pile of used tires.

The site is gone now, some tires I suppose being made into matts or whatever, but where they all went I do not know.
--------------
A ton of ammonium nitrate bags, rather than granular, would pack on a skid around 4 x 4 x 4 feet high if I recall. 16 square feet of floor space per ton. ( or 8 square feet per 2 ton if double stacked )

2700 tons double stack would be 21600 sq feet (2700 x 8 ) of floor space, or 1350 double stacked skids
A trailer can take 26 skids of those double stacks.
that would be 52 trailer loads to move it out somewhere, not that much of a daunting task.

In retrospect, if the transportation costs were to be $5000/trailer - $260,000 to move it out from a population concentrated area for dispersal...Other costs would accrue, how much for the actual dispersal ??

IMO, it seems to be a the bureaucratic machine at its finest. ( an oxymoron if anyone needs explanation ).
 
  • Like
Likes Buzz Bloom
  • #26
256bits said:
People seem to like storing stuff altogether, even when they know it is unsafe, until disaster strikes, and then in hindsight...

Well, it's not like they said "hey, let's leave this for six years". It's a few more months, a few more months...

Also, identifying the responsible party is not-trivial. Just as an example, the ship was Moldovian-flagged. Moldova is landlocked.

Finally, Lebanon's government is not the world's most functional. It's not Somalia or South Sudan, but neither is it Canada.
 
  • Like
Likes nsaspook and 256bits
  • #27
Vanadium 50 said:
Moldova is landlocked.
It does have a port on the Danube which is accessible to seagoing vessels.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_of_Giurgiulești

The Port of Giurgiulești was built as result of a 2005 territorial exchange with Ukraine, where Moldova received a 600 m-long bank of the Danube River (which is an international waterway).
 
  • #28
256bits said:
2700 tons double stack would be 21600 sq feet (2700 x 8 ) of floor space, or 1350 double stacked skids
A trailer can take 26 skids of those double stacks.
I've seen one undated picture that shows 1000 kg bags stored haphazardly, two-bags high and apparently side-by-side. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
https://news.yahoo.com/satellite-imagery-shows-scale-destruction-193200562.html

The bags are labeled Nitroprill, which seems to be a copy of Nitropril™ by Orica Mining Services. Prills are small porous spherical particles.
https://www.dynonobel.com/~/media/F...gen Products/1Ammonium_Nitrate_Industrial.pdf
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes 256bits
  • #29
jtbell said:
It does have a port on the Danube which is accessible to seagoing vessels.

Interesting. But that makes it more landlocked than Switzerland, which has the Rhone. The real point, though, is that Moldova is a flag of convenience, and a vessel that they were willing to certify as sound and seaworthy ended up needing to stop in Beirut, where officials said in effect "that rustbucket isn't going anywhere".

The owner at the time appeared to be a Russian living in Cyprus, using a Moldovian-flagged vessel to move ammonium nitrate from Georgia to Mozambique. Could things possibly get any sketchier?
 
  • Sad
Likes nsaspook
  • #30
Based on the delay, This couple was less than 2,000 feet from the blast.
 
  • Wow
  • Like
Likes Borg and 256bits
  • #31
DaveC426913 said:
Based on the delay, This couple was less than 2,000 feet from the blast.


Great comment: She is going to use this against him forever...
 
  • Like
Likes DaveC426913
  • #32
The Governor says that 300,000 have lost their homes. What a tragedy!
 
  • Sad
  • Like
Likes 256bits, Astronuc and berkeman
  • #33
Astronuc said:
've seen one undated picture that shows 1000 kg bags stored haphazardly, two-bags high and apparently side-by-side. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
good picture of the storage.
I didn't know if the storage was in bulk bins, the bulk bags, so I went with the 50 pound consumer bags.
That stuff must have been caked up and hard as a rock after all this time.
 
  • #34
I had heard the BBC radio reports of this in the morning, and seen a few photos later in the day, but the posted video was the first I had seen of video coverage.

Good God! That was absolutely apocalyptic! I am wondering if/how much some of those videographers were injured... Not even sure what intelligent comment I can offer other than abject shock. I could make a rambling rant about the plight of merchant seafarers working in sub-human conditions, and how this can allow situations like this to develop... but it seems kinda academic under the current circumstances.

Holy crap! um... I'm kind of at a loss.

diogenesNY
 
  • #35
I am astonished, and relieved, that the death toll is only a hundred and change (even if the collateral damage is huge). That explosion could have killed thousands.
 
  • Like
Likes berkeman

Similar threads

Replies
15
Views
2K
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
10
Views
2K
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
Replies
5
Views
1K
Replies
8
Views
1K
  • General Discussion
Replies
4
Views
1K
Replies
8
Views
994
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
21
Views
2K
  • General Discussion
Replies
4
Views
729
Replies
1
Views
819
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
5
Views
2K
Back
Top