What are the possible causes of the explosion

Explosions in Beirut: ammonium nitrate as a possible cause

After the huge detonations near the port on Tuesday, there are first indications of the cause. According to eyewitnesses, the explosions, in which at least 100 people were killed and almost 4,000 injured, were “like an atomic bomb”.

Beirut / Tunis. According to the Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, a very large amount of ammonium nitrate could have caused the detonation in Beirut, killing dozens and injuring thousands. It was "unacceptable" that a load of an estimated 2750 tons of the substance had been stored in a hall at the port, said Diab on Wednesday night, according to the presidential office. The substance was stored there for six years without any safety precautions. Ammonium nitrate, which can also be used to make explosives, can detonate at higher temperatures. The substance is used for rocket propulsion and, above all, for the production of fertilizers.

Hassan Diab had already announced on Tuesday that he wanted to "hold those responsible to account". They would "pay the price for this disaster," said Diab in a televised address.

In any case, during the two gigantic detonations on Tuesday afternoon, a huge mushroom cloud had formed in the sky. Skyscrapers swayed, balconies crashed to the ground, windows tore from their anchorages. Battered cars piled on the city highway along Beirut's Corniche, doors torn open and airbags inflated. Large parts of the port and its surroundings were littered with bricks, concrete parts and broken containers. The detonations could be heard as far as Cyprus, 240 kilometers away.

Cell phone videos showed a huge roller of dust and fire rolling over the surrounding residential areas. "It was like an atomic bomb," said one of the eyewitnesses, a 43-year-old teacher. According to the Red Cross on Wednesday morning, the death toll rose to 100, according to official figures, almost 4,000 people were injured. Many people are likely to be trapped under the rubble.

Covered with blood and in shock

Passers-by, covered in blood, wandered through the streets in shock. Numerous crew members of ships lying in the harbor were thrown around and injured by the pressure wave. In the Hamra shopping district near the port, hardly a shop, café or restaurant remained undamaged. Parts of the building came loose, shop windows broke. Cars were hit by wreckage. The health system is seriously overwhelmed with caring for the injured, and many hospitals are badly damaged.

The devastating catastrophe hits Lebanon at a time when the country is in the middle of the worst economic and national crisis since the end of the civil war in 1990. The cedar state, once praised as “the Switzerland of the Orient”, is bankrupt. At least $ 80 billion has seeped away in his ailing banking system, probably a lot more. The value of the Lebanese lira has been falling for months and salaries have meanwhile lost 80 percent of their purchasing power.

Large parts of the population have lost their savings due to inflation. Half of all Lebanese live on the poverty line. More and more shops have to close. Hospitals can no longer pay their staff, while the number of corona infections has been rising rapidly since the beginning of July. Large parts of the country are without electricity for up to 20 hours each day. Even the capital Beirut is largely in the dark in the evening. Stinking piles of rubbish are piling up in the streets. The negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have reached a dead end because Beirut's political class cannot agree on a reform program.

In addition, the “Special Tribunal for Lebanon” (STL) in The Hague wants to announce the verdict in the Hariri trial on Friday this week after six years of trial. Fifteen years ago, billionaire and longtime prime minister Rafik Hariri was killed in Beirut by a two-ton truck bomb that destroyed an entire row of houses. At that time 21 people died with him and 226 were injured. Four Hezbollah suspects are charged. Everyone went into hiding, no one has been captured to this day. And so, given the troubled situation in the country, the verdicts could rekindle tensions between the Shiite Hezbollah and the Sunni Lebanese.

Offers of help from the EU and Israel

Meanwhile, aid pledges came in from all over the world. Both the EU and France promised aid to Lebanon. "The European Union is ready to provide help and support," said EU Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday evening. France is sending aid to Lebanon, wrote French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter on Tuesday evening. Today's Lebanon was formerly part of the French mandate in the Middle East, the two countries still have a close relationship.

The neighboring country of Israel also offered humanitarian aid. "Under the direction of Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenasi, Israel has approached Lebanon through international diplomatic and defense channels," both ministers said in a joint statement. The Lebanese government had been offered "medical humanitarian aid".