A massive explosion occurred recently in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, raising doubts over the causes of the incident as well as the adherence to the safety protocols, which have to be followed when a compound causing several explosions in past is concerned. Let us also explore the history of this nation.
Crux of the Matter
On 4th August 2020, a massive explosion occurred at the Beirut port in Lebanon. 150 casualties have been reported (as of 6th August), with more than 5,000 people injured and several people reported missing. The explosion was felt in the Cyprus islands, which lies 240 km away from Beirut, and the explosion also generated seismic waves equivalent to a 3.3 magnitude earthquake.
The Government has claimed that the blast occurred due to the storage of 2,700 tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate, which was stored in the warehouse of the port for over six years. Nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) gas, harmful to the respiratory system, was released due to the explosion, with the red-colored gas being observed in the city.
The explosion also aggravated the economic crisis of the state, which has been witnessing protests since the start of the year against increased poverty and unemployment.
Ammonium Nitrate (AN) is used for the production of fertilisers, but is also the main component of ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil), which is an explosive compound. AN can explode in 2 major ways:
- Triggering by primary explosion using RDX or TNT,
- Heat generation due to oxidation on a large scale, which results in a fire and causes a blast.
History Of Lebanon
- Lebanon is located in the Middle East between Israel and Syria.
- It gained independence from France on 22 November, 1943, with complete freedom being acquired on 1 Jan, 1944.
- After Israel was declared as a state in 1948, Palestinian refugees fled to Lebanon and used the country as an attacking base to attack Israel.
- 1975: Civil war erupts in Lebanon between “Christians, Muslims and Palestinians”.
- 1976: Syria enters to stop the civil war.
- 1978: Israel invades Lebanon to attack the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) operating in Lebanon.
- 1990: The civil war ended, and a Government was established with the aid of Syria.
- 2004: The United Nations (UN) asks Syria to withdraw troops placed in Lebanon for over 28 years. Syria declines the order and extends the term of its selected President Lahoud.
- 2005: Syria withdraws all troops from Lebanon after protest over the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who had a strong anti-Syria.
- July 2006: Israel invades Lebanon after Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite Muslim group kidnaps 2 Israeli soldiers.
- August 2006: Ceasefire is implemented between Israel and Lebanon.
- 2011: The Unity Government of Lebanon is dissolved.
- 2012: Security Chief Wissam al-Hassan is killed in a car bombing, with several leaders blaming his death on Syria.
- 2012: Civil war starts in Syria.
- 2013: Refugee crisis in Lebanon as more than 700,000 refugees from Syria enter the country. Restrictions were imposed in 2015 on the entry of the Syrians as the refugee count crossed 1 million.
- 2020: Mass protests against Govt occur over the economic crisis, further aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Lebanon’s financial power and stability through the 1950s and 1960s earned it the moniker of “Switzerland of the East”. While its capital, Beirut, attracted so many tourists that it was known as “the Paris of the Middle East”.
- The 1947 Texas City disaster was an industrial accident that occurred on April 16, 1947, in the Port of Texas City, Texas, at Galveston Bay. A mid-morning fire started on board the SS Grandcamp (docked in the port) and detonated about 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate. This started a chain reaction of fires and explosions in other ships and nearby oil-storage facilities, ultimately killing at least 581 people.
- The flag of Lebanon is formed of two horizontal red stripes enveloping a horizontal white stripe. The green cedar (Lebanon Cedar) in the middle touches each of the red stripes and its width is one third of the width of the flag.
- The Indian Express – Explained: What is ammonium nitrate, which caused the massive explosion in Beirut?
- CNN – French factory blast kills 17
- The Guardian – Tianjin explosion: China sets final death toll at 173, ending search for survivors
- Hindustan Times – Beirut blast: Warnings of ‘extreme danger’ ignored by Lebanon officials about stored ammonium nitrate
- Al Jazeera – Beirut explosion: World reacts to deadly blast in Lebanon capital
- BBC – Lebanon profile – Timeline