What Happened In Beirut, Where Massive Explosions Killed Dozens & Left Thousands Injured

No, it wasn't a nuclear attack.

Cover image via [email protected] Lewis & CGTN

In Beirut, two explosions in the port of the Lebanese capital rocked the whole city with one of the bigger blasts being heard 240km away

The two blasts were a combination of a smaller explosion and a much larger one.

The explosions have shaken up Beirut, killing at least 75 people and leaving over 4,000 injured.

Videos of the massive blasts, that sent a huge mushroom cloud into the sky, show a wide swath of the city being destroyed, with buildings miles from where the explosions occurred lying in ruin.

According to The Guardian, the blasts come at a terrible time for Lebanon, which is on the brink of financial collapse. Following the blasts, Lebanon's High Defence Council declared Beirut a disaster-stricken city.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab said there will be "accountability" for those who are responsible for the "great national disaster"

In a speech delivered after the explosion, Hassan addressed his fellow Lebanese, saying that "Beirut is grief-stricken", and that "the images and videos" translate the scope of the calamity that has affected Lebanon.

"All of Lebanon is disaster-torn. Lebanon is going through quite an ordeal that could only be faced with national unity and solidarity among all Lebanese from all backgrounds and regions," he said.

"We are going through a disaster that could only be overcome with determination and tenacity to face this serious challenge and its destructive consequences."

According to him, what happened on Tuesday, 4 August, "will not fly by without accountability".

"All those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price. This is a promise I make to martyrs and injured. This is a national commitment," the Lebanese Prime Minister said.

A picture shows the scene of the explosion near the port in Beirut.

Image via CNN

What happened?

Early reports suggested the explosion was triggered by a fire at a large fireworks warehouse, with the dramatic explosion that was caught on videos showing flashes of smaller explosions before the separate and much larger blast, which generated an enormous shock wave, according to a report in NPR.

However, the Lebanese Prime Minister said that the likely cause of the huge blast appears to have been a highly reactive chemical called ammonium nitrate.

According to Hassan, 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded after lying unsecured in a warehouse for six years. He said that "facts about this dangerous warehouse" will be announced.

Classified as an 'energetic material', ammonium nitrate is not regarded as particularly volatile or dangerous, but it can be deadly under certain conditions, according to an explainer by Sky News.

Although, exactly what caused the chemical to ignite is not yet clear.

According to Gabriel da Silva, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne, the chemical is an oxidiser and draws oxygen to a fire, making it much more intense.

He told The Guardian that it ignites only under the right circumstances, and these are difficult to achieve. "You need extreme circumstances to set off an explosion," he said.

The Lebanese government has launched an investigation into the cause of the explosion.

While conspiracy theorists on social media claimed it was a nuclear attack, fact-checkers and experts have concluded that it wasn't

According to Jeffrey Lewis, a leading arms control expert, referencing images of the blast said that "there are literally none of the phenomena one sees with a nuclear explosion".

Meanwhile, VICE reported that people who want to believe that what happened in Beirut was a nuclear explosion or some sort of attack will not be convinced with what the evidence says.

"The timing is too perfect. The anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima is two days away ... and the footage of the Beirut explosion is captivating and horrible," it said

It's the perfect recipe for a conspiracy theory.

"These people don't want to be convinced. Those of us who study nuclear weapons can explain over and over again until we are blue in the face that this looks nothing like a nuclear explosion," Lewis said.

"People are seizing on the 'mushroom cloud' which you see in all kinds of explosions. There are none of the phenomena we would expect to see and the colouration is all wrong. Also, a nuclear explosion would result in radiation detections. It's like people are screaming 'OMG it's Lamborghini' and pointing at a dump truck. I don't know what to say other than 'No, it isn't.'"

For now, Lebanon's Prime Minister said they are "focusing on handling the disaster, pulling the martyrs out, and treating the wounded"

"I implore you to be united in order to celebrate a victory for our martyrs and heal our injured wounds and our nation's wounds," he said, adding that he urgently calls for "all the friendly and brotherly nations that love Lebanon to stand by Lebanon and help us heal our deep wounds".

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