I’m quite prepared to accept that fireworks sparked the massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon yesterday. If you look at video of the incident, the initial fire shows sparkling minor explosions all around the central smoke, typical of ignited fireworks. As for the enormous blast that followed, I’m also prepared to believe it involved thousands of tons of stored nitrates.
If you look at the color of the smoke cloud left by the explosion, it’s got the rusty-red tinge characteristic of nitrate explosions.
I’ve seen a couple in Africa (on a much smaller scale), and they showed the same effect. The damage is also consistent with such an explosion.
Consider the Texas City disaster of 1947, which involved a similar amount of nitrates and devastated the port and surrounding areas. Consider, also, the explosion at a nitrate fertilizer plant in Texas a few years ago, which offers a useful comparison.
However, it’s known that Hezbollah had a missile manufacturing and/or maintenance facility in the port area. I won’t be at all surprised to learn that it’s no longer there, and that the warheads and propellant of any missiles that were there at the time contributed to the blast and destruction.
You can take it as read that Beirut’s harbor will be severely affected by this explosion for years to come. I doubt it’ll be back in any sort of meaningful operation in less than a month, and it’ll operate at greatly reduced capacity until port facilities can be rebuilt, restored and replaced. It’ll be a major blow to the city’s and the country’s economy.
The damages caused by the explosion range between three to five billion dollars and between 200 to 250 thousand people have been left without a place to live.
Lebanon’s main wheat silo was destroyed in the explosion, leaving the country with about a month’s worth of grain. “We are currently looking for storage areas,” Nehme said, adding that Lebanon needed enough inventories to last at least three months to ensure its food security.
There’s more at the link.
The explosion will also cause major disruption to Hezbollah’s ability to recruit and deploy its forces, and put a major crimp in its wallet, because it supports so many people in southern Lebanon who will now need so much more help than usual.
I doubt very much whether Israel had anything to do with this explosion, in terms of an air or missile strike or sabotage. The video evidence of a preliminary fireworks fire is convincing. From Israel’s point of view, of course, it was a very fortunate accident, inflicting severe damage on an enemy (Hezbollah) by crippling the country that shelters it (Lebanon).
Geopolitics aside, let’s pray for the dozens (at least) of people who died, and the (probably) thousands of injured and bereaved. It’s going to take Lebanon in general, and Beirut in particular, a long time to get over this.
EDITED TO ADD: Here’s a compilation of videos showing the blast from all angles, and from very close to far away. It’s the best I’ve seen so far.