Beirut

THERE has to be a via media between Victorian statism – really, an exemplar for the mindset of the modern West – and a polity whose regulations are so lax as to allow 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate to be stored in a warehouse for six years. That ‘only’ 100 people were killed in Beirut (a number likely to double as the rubble is searched) is a miracle. So jam-packed is the city, however, the damage to the built environment is catastrophic. At least a quarter of a million people are now homeless. This is one surreal year, friends:

Special honour is due to these heroes: on scene promptly, they were killed in the massive second blast.

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30 Responses to Beirut

  1. pbw

    2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate

    Yeah, right. Nothing to do with Hezbollah receiving shipments of arms from Iran. Or maybe with Hezbollah storing explosives on the dock. Look at the satellite map of the area. There are two sheds along the wharf. The Epoch Times has some excellent photos of the aftermath. Looking at this video (and another view from behind the silos) the first explosion occurred toward the seaward end of the city-side shed, with much of the shed still visible as the secondary explosions occur. The the whole city-side of the same shed goes up, creating the impressive crater, and ripping the front off the silos. (One wonders how many people to the west of the blast were shielded by the silos.)

    If it was ammonium nitrate, were there two piles? Why was the first blast cloud a different colour? What were all the secondaries, which set off the main blast?

    on scene promptly, they were killed in the massive second blast

    I’m not taking anything away from them, but they must have been very close to start with. How many seconds did they have to respond? Or was there an initial fire which set off the first blast?

  2. pbw

    This is one surreal year, friends

    Oh yes. And it has nothing to do with the Passion, Easter and Pentecost being cancelled this year. To imagine otherwise would be mediaeval.

  3. pbw

    From the UK Speccie, something completely different…
    Local authorities will be able to destroy cars, buses, trains and aeroplanes suspected of being contaminated with Covid-19 under new powers. The government’s Covid-19 Contain Framework would also allow councils to demolish buildings such as care homes, offices and even private homes as a last resort if outbreaks run out of control.

  4. stackja

    NYFD ran into the burning WTC Towers.

  5. Nob

    Messaging with my engineering colleagues from Beirut, (both working outside of Lebanon now and their families unhurt, some neighbours houses damaged),b they say the ammonium nitrate was confiscated and then just left in storage, due to corruption $$$ which is rampant in Lebanon.

  6. rickw

    A$2 million for Hezbollah’s incompetent bomb makers.

    Australian Government, boot on your throat, hand in your pocket.

  7. Xword

    Ammonia nitrate explosion remains USA’s biggest man made disaster when about 600 died in Port Texas (Galveston) in 1947. Be very surprised if Beirut fatalities don’t at least match up

  8. Louis Hissink

    The ammonium nitrate would have been in sealed plastic bags and essentially inert. To make it explode one needs to wet the ammonium nitrate with diesel fuel and insert a detonator to make it explode. This produces a low velocity explosion. It is SOP in open cut mining. Also underground mining, everything else being equal.

    What happened at Beirut seems different.

  9. yarpos

    The Victorian State Government (if you can call it government) allowed tons of chemical waste to be stored in the North and North West of Melbourne for many years (BTW do those areas sound familiar?).

    Its more good luck than good management (another laughable term in relation to this Government) that this “only” related in large , obvious and politically embarrassing fires , rather than an explosion or a mini Bhopal. Once again they were forced to clean up their own mess and tried to make they were heroes in the process rather than incompetent and lazy regulators.

  10. lotocoti

    a polity whose regulations are so lax as to allow 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate to be stored in a warehouse for six years

    Lax regulations or a protected strategic resource for hezbollah?

  11. Currency Lad:

    That ‘only’ 100 people were killed in Beirut (a number likely to double as the rubble is searched) is a miracle.

    They won’t find may of the bodies because they will have been vaporised by the pressure wave and turned into pink then charcoal coloured mist.

  12. Bruce

    Note the different coloured smoke in fairly rapid sequence.

    First: grey, accompanied by “crackling’ noises. Fireworks, as touted by the media? Probably, by the colour of the accompanying flashes, something a bit more modern then the black powder and other colourful brews used in “fireworks”. more like detonators, AP mines, maybe even mortar bombs.

    Second burst of smoke is the big cloud of brawn / orange stuff. That is likely the Ammonium Nitrate deflagrating; NO2, NO4?

    AN in bulk and dry will do this. Lots of incidents from all around the world in the last century and a bit. Even here in Australia there have been a few exciting incidents. However, if a relatively small percentage of something like a fuel oil gets in there as well, (think: truck rollover, mixed cargoes and bad roads) it’s a much bigger story.

    Finally, a fraction of a second later, something else went off. If, as reported there were a couple of thousand tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate in that shed, and if there were ten tonnes remaining, being steadily heated by the deflagration “fire”, that is bad enough. However, IF “something” like a stray mortar bomb or hand grenade that had rolled under a pallet were present, all bets are off. The shock from such a detonation could have been sufficient to send the reaction from deflagration to detonation. That was the blast that sent the very visible “shock front” racing outwards, flattening buildings and heaving cars all over the place and blowing in windows several Kilometres away. The “luckiest” folk are the ones who survived, with severe hearing damage, because they were living in the “shadow” behind the grain silo building. The early stories about a massive series of “grain-dust’ explosions inside the silos make no sense given the physical evidence.

    Finally, to the best of my knowledge, there are TWO types of Ammonium Nitrate. There’s the “good stuff”, which is pure and used to make things go away with extreme prejudice. It is also used in prodigious quantities in the mining biz. Then there’s the stuff used by people to actually raise their plants, not lift whole suburbs. This stuff has “neutering additives” to pretty much make it useless as an explosive precursor. Well, hereabouts that is; other places? Maybe not.

    And a Happy Hiroshima Day to one and all!

  13. Steve

    The ammonium nitrate would have been in sealed plastic bags and essentially inert. To make it explode one needs to wet the ammonium nitrate with diesel fuel and insert a detonator to make it explode. This produces a low velocity explosion. It is SOP in open cut mining. Also underground mining, everything else being equal.

    What happened at Beirut seems different.

    My experience as well a Canadian explosive expert I worked with explained it couldn’t explode until mixed with diesel and only then with smaller explosion to set it off. We used a half stick of gelignite.

  14. Woolfe

    Rubbish Steve, it is stored in bulk we have mega tonnes in belly dumper road trains from Kwinana to Pilbara every day.

    The intense heat from the initial fire plus other small explosions seen could have caused it to detonate, look up Texas City disaster.

    Gelignite, really? we haven’t used dynagel.

    Check your experience.

  15. Woolfe

    Used dynagel for 30 years.

  16. H B Bear

    Rio and BHP manage to use thousands of tonnes every year without a problem in the Pilbara. Can’t just be the unusual Arab incompetence.

  17. Bruce of Newcastle

    The ammonium nitrate would have been in sealed plastic bags and essentially inert

    Melts at only 169 C. Then you would have the stuff going everywhere. With the many smaller detonations going on you can see how a sympathetic detonation of the NH4NO3 could then occur. A rivulet of it would be like det cord.

    The report is also that the source of the shipment was Russian, who might not have been so good at careful packaging. For example standard 1 tonne bulk bags usually just have a string holding the top closed. So as the stuff melted the bag would crumple and the liquid would pour out the hole.

  18. Pyrmonter

    A speculation, but when we say Lebanese regulation is ‘lax’, it doesn’t seem to be the case that it is absent; just that it is complex, inconsistent, poorly administered and, likely deliberately, opaque. Informed opinion is that the Lebanese state is hopelessly corrupt: corruption prospers with bad regulation, not its absence.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/08/05/price-lebanons-endemic-corruption-has-now-paid-blood/

  19. Rebel with cause

    The Beirut port is controlled by terrorist organisation Hezbollah. An evil organisation.

    The universe has a way of coming back at you when you do evil things.

    Prayers for the innocent.

  20. Tim Neilson

    A speculation, but when we say Lebanese regulation is ‘lax’, it doesn’t seem to be the case that it is absent; just that it is complex, inconsistent, poorly administered and, likely deliberately, opaque. Informed opinion is that the Lebanese state is hopelessly corrupt: corruption prospers with bad regulation, not its absence.

    Which makes Lebanon pretty much the same as Victoria. We’re really just seeing two manifestations of the same thing.

  21. pbw

    From January 21, 2010 story in Reuters.

    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon formed a new government on Tuesday under Prime Minister Hassan Diab after the Shi’ite group Hezbollah and its allies agreed on a cabinet that must urgently address an economic crisis.

    New Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni … described forthcoming foreign currency sovereign debt maturities as “a fireball”.

    In retrospect, an unfortunate description.

    The Iranian-backed Hezbollah and allies including President Michel Aoun nominated Diab as premier last month after efforts failed to strike a deal with Hariri, Lebanon’s main Sunni leader and a traditional ally of the West and Gulf Arab states.

  22. Scott Osmond

    I’m not done with you fuckers yet!
    Signed 2020.

  23. Lebanon used to be called the j ewell of the Mediterranean.
    WTH happened to it?
    🙂

  24. Infidel Tiger King

    Rio and BHP manage to use thousands of tonnes every year without a problem in the Pilbara. Can’t just be the unusual Arab incompetence.

    Lebanese are not Arabs.

  25. A Palestinian baby in a Tel Aviv hospital is fighting for his life, but the only reason the baby is still alive is that an Israeli family that lost their one-year-old child the week before agreed to donate the child’s heart only hours before the Palestinian child became the recipient of a heart transplant, performed by Israeli doctors.

    It doesn’t take much to lift one’s spirits and hopes.
    God bless the Israli couple who gave this marvelous gift.

  26. Professor Fred Lenin

    Years ago I was invoved in a race club ,I used to visit the workshop at times ,we were renovating the turf on the track and expected a delivery of two tonnes of sodium nitrate . The driver had been told to put it in a big shed . I went there after lunch and there it was ,neatly stacked under the diesel fuel tank !
    This was at the timeof the IRA bombings ,I had visions of an own goal style disaster ,all we needewas a detonator ,needless to say the fertilizer was quickly moved to the other end of the shed .
    It may be spoldey but its damned good fertilizer

  27. Nob

    Infidel Tiger King
    #3537503, posted on August 6, 2020 at 11:03 am

    Lebanese are not Arabs

    They speak Arabic.
    And English and French.
    But mostly Arabic.

    They have the only decent middle Eastern university outside of Israel (Beirut American university. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_University_of_Beirut )

  28. Professor Fred Lenin

    I said sodium nitrate it was ammonium nitrate ,it was years ago and I forgot the name ,at the time
    I grew lots of vegetables and used many different fertilisers,

  29. pbw

    FT journalist Chloe Cornish in Beirut, posting on twitter 5 hours ago.

    Traders & shippers of Beirut’s port knew there was something strange about Warehouse 12.

    You don’t say.

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