*(Photo: Hussein Kassir, Shutterstock.com)
Lebanese authorities have linked the enormous explosion at the Port of Beirut to ammonium nitrate that had been stored there for six years.
But social media has been alight with alternative theories, including claims that the blast was atomic.
This week’s (August 4) explosion close to the city centre, propelled the capital into chaos – killing at least 135 people and injuring almost 5000.
The blast occurred after fires erupted in warehouses storing confiscated agricultural fertiliser.
The mushroom-like explosion sent a shockwave through the city and caused widespread damage, with seismic waves that were heard as far as Cyprus.
The blast was equal to a 3.5 magnitude earthquake according to Germany’s geosciences centre GFZ.
— Bissan Fakih (@BissanCampaigns) August 4, 2020
While social media theories have been debunked, the US President Donald Trump added to the confusion, saying he had been briefed by military authorities that the blast was likely a “terrible attack”.
No officials from the US Department of Defence have reaffirmed Trump’s statement.
One theory is that the shipment was confiscated from a cargo ship that was heading from Georgia in the former Soviet Union, to Africa, and was being stored for sale to drive commissions for government officials.
However, this doesn’t explain why it was left for so long according to Dr Mariam Farida, a Lebanese-Australian Professor of Politics and International studies at UNSW.
“It is not yet known why such an abundant supply of the substance was allowed to sit in a Beirut warehouse for half a decade,” she said.
“There have been other theories that have come out that are saying the stockpile was in place to be used for weapon manufacture by Hezbollah, but this theory lacks substantial evidence and is not consistent with Hezbollah’s known secretive practices.
“This was a port, it was in public, regardless of how it got there, both the current and the former prime minister knew it was there.”
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, has committed to a transparent probe into the blast, which has left more than 300,000 people homeless and is likely to cost on the economy at upwards of $3 billion USD.
The devastation caused by this explosion comes as yet another setback for a country that is already on the brink of economic and social collapse. For the Lebanese people affected by this disaster, the question remains – how was this allowed to happen?
HISTORY OF DISASTERS
In the last century, there have been at least two dozen major disasters that were caused by the combustion of ammonium nitrate.
Most notably in 1947, when a cargo ship exploded in Texas City killing at least 581 people. The explosion was so large that it knocked two low flying planes out of the sky.
In Australia, the compound was deemed to be a threat to national security because of its potential dangers when used in the manufacture of home-made bombs. The federal and state governments agreed in 2004 to ban access to high concentrations of the substance.
— Khaled Al Khawaldeh @khaledkhawa