(Image source from: thenewsminute.com)
At least 135 people were dead and 5000 others were injured after two blasts ripped apart the city of Beirut on Tuesday. Though the official reason for the blast is unknown, scientists have explained what may have led to the tragic event.
The capital city of Lebanon has witnessed two hefty explosions that were recorded by some on their mobiles which had shattered the city, flipped the cars and broke the window panes of houses.
Early reports have said that the blasts may have occurred due to fireworks and ammonium nitrate but investigators are still unclear about the exact reason.
According to Boaz Hayoun, owner or Tamar group that works with issues involving explosives said that according to the video of the disaster’s initial moments there’s the presence of sparks of fire, so the fire may have started in a fireworks warehouse.
He told the press that before the big explosion he heard the sounds like popcorn bustling and the sounds of whistles. He also said that sparks are clearly visible.
Moments after the first blast, the second big explosion had happened. It blasted through the city and created a mushroom cloud with a force of 3.5 magnitude earthquake.
Hans Kristensen, the Director of Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists said that the fire in the first explosion is the reason for the second one to ignite.
He explained that when the second blast went off an enormous pressure wave was created by compact transformation of energy in the chemicals.
He added that the chemicals from ammonium nitrate are clearly visible in the plume of explosion.
Moreover, the presence of red and orange color in the fumes of the blasts is indicative of the presence of ammonium nitrate according to him.
The second blast of explosion may have been caused by the detonation of more than 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate that might have been stored in a warehouse at the dock as the blast happened in a port area of Beirut, according to Lebanon’s interior minister Mohammed Fahmi.
Scientist kristensen said that it is not likely a nuclear explosion according to him as lot of things go wrong with this theory.
If it were a nuclear blast the cloud would be white in color but the explosion was red and orange in color.
He added that he could not see any bright white flash which generally happens with a nuclear explosion.
What is ammonium nitrate?
It is an industrial chemical commonly used in agriculture and in making explosives. It is generally considered safe until its contaminated, like if it is mixed with fuel or stored unsafely.
The chemical is made all over the world and is quite inexpensive too.
A large quantity of ammonium nitrate mixed with intense heat can trigger explosion according to Kristensen. The chemical is highly volatile and should not be stored in a warehouse.
Storing the chemical near large fuel tanks in large quantities in an area with poor ventilation can cause massive blasts.
This is not the first time a catastrophe has happened due to ammonium nitrate.
In 1947 at Texas, a cigarette smoke caused a fire in a ship that is carrying 2300 tons of ammonium nitrate. The chemical has exploded and caused a chain reaction exploding chemical tanks and oil refineries nearby.
In 2015, an explosion occurred in China after an explosion at a warehouse storing ammonium nitrate happened and killed at least 116 people.
By Gayatri Yellayi