Early reports of the blast revealed that the building that sparked the eruption may have been storing large quantities of ammonium nitrate, an explodable chemical that has relatively harmless manifestations as fertilizer but has also been experimented with as a rocket fuel. No, it’s not a shock wave. Hospitals that were already dealing with the coronavirus crisis were quickly filled beyond capacity, and issued pleas for blood donations and generators to keep the lights going. Every fire is a rearrangement of molecules, and an explosion is basically a fire turbocharged into a hyper-energy-fueled frenzy. Blast damage assessment in Beirut is being carried out using two-dimensional satellite imagery. The more mundane explosions are rarely this size, but the same principles of physics and chemistry apply. He would “reveal facts” about the warehouse soon, he said, but did not want to pre-empt an investigation. On Thursday the French president, Emmanuel Macron, visited the city. By measuring the times at which the pressure wave reaches these landmarks on the video, we know that, as it blazed down the pier, its rampage occurred at a speed of only 312 meters per second. Four officials accused of negligence in connection with explosion at port, which killed more than 200 people, Business is strong for glaziers but the mood among most rescuers and residents is sombre, Lebanon’s club scene was perhaps the most vibrant in the Middle East, but the explosion that rocked its capital last month has silenced it. The explosion was so powerful that all the buildings in the city’s business district and even the airport, which is in a different part of the city, were damaged by the blast wave. For reference, the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 used the equivalent of 1.8 thousand kilograms of TNT. The scale of the damage is huge, with buildings miles from the port lying in ruin. Nitropril is designed for use in coal mines, so this particular breed of ammonium nitrate would not have been mixed with quieting chemicals like a fertilizer would be; rather, it would have been mixed to blow. Shocks, because of their fascinating and complex physics, travel faster than the speed of sound, and they cause far more damage than pressure waves. A shock wave goes from zero pressure to its absolute maximum pressure in literally zero seconds. On Tuesday evening in Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut, two huge explosions in its port sent an enormous blast wave across the city, killing at least 137 people and injuring around 5,000 more. Buckland treated casualties following a natural gas explosion in Durham, North Carolina, in 2019 which, while substantially smaller in size, occurred in a densely populated downtown area. Thanks to modern technology that charge size can be calculated scientifically too, even while waiting for more complete information to trickle out, using the size of the telltale crater. When Tuesday, November 17, 2020 from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM EST Add to Calendar. Lebanon's caretaker PM and ex-ministers charged over Beirut blast, A city in need of miracles: few glimmers of hope in Beirut's reconstruction effort, Beirut's destroyed clubbing district: 'I don't know how we will recover', Beirut rescuers give up after sensors gave false hopes of more survivors, Possible sign of life detected under Beirut rubble weeks after blast, Beirut explosion devastates Sursock Palace and Museum – in pictures, Beirut explosion: FBI to take part in Lebanon investigation, If ever there was a moment for change in Lebanon, this must surely be it, Latest story: death toll rises to 137 as army takes control of site, Ground zero: a rip through the heart of an already dying city. As we learn more about Beirut, which could possibly challenge that record, the story of Halifax tells us what we might expect to learn about the ensuing trauma, and the modern cell phone videos, along with the blast physics gleaned by scientists in the intervening century, tell us why those patterns of trauma occurred in quite the way they did. A shock wave raced from the site of the blast, on Beirut’s industrial waterfront, into the city’s densely populated residential neighborhoods and downtown shopping districts. Then, video of the fireball rippled around the world almost as quickly. Up to 300,000 people have suffered damage to their homes, leaving some uninhabitable. First published on Wed 5 Aug 2020 01.51 BST. However, in a way, the world already has some idea what to expect, because similar blasts have occurred before. The blast wave would contain pressures of GPa (Giga Pascals) and temperatures over 3000 o C. The blast wave can travel great distances causing damage to buildings, cars, people etc. Flat, delicate, frangible, and installed in large sheets, glass is the perfect target for a blast wave of even minuscule magnitude; it shatters and flies easier than any other substance. The third wave is made up of those at the core of the site, too injured to walk, whom the emergency responders combing the wreckage medically prioritize next. After that, the hospitals get flooded by “walking wounded,” those who are wounded enough to seek medical care but intact enough to transport themselves. It was, sadly, tragically, history repeating itself yet again: Explosives can be devastatingly lethal, and we should never underestimate their destructive fury. Then by the time the audible crash and mayhem reached the formerly peaceful and picturesque outdoor bar, it had slowed to at most 289 meters per second. © 2020 Condé Nast. An unspecified number of port officials have been ordered to be placed under house arrest pending an investigation, which is scheduled to take five days. The army took control of the site on Thursday on the first day of a two-week state of emergency. The chemical rearrangement of ammonium nitrate answers a lot of the public questions about the videos, including the source of the startling red color of the plume. A small blast can look subtle and orange-ish, but on a large scale like at Beirut, the sunlight helps deepen its hue. 💻 Upgrade your work game with our Gear team’s. Thankfully, we know this blast did not produce a shock because the speed of the water-vapor-filled white dome can be measured. Now, details of the blast that started in a fireworks storage area by a small storage building at the end of a Beirut pier trickle in as the world waits to hear what the final death, injury, and destruction tallies will be. I outline an alternative approach using Open Street Map data to create a 3D model of Beirut and the explosion to analyze directional blast damage. Under boring everyday conditions, the + of the ammonium and the – of the nitrate pull the two molecules into a harmless hug, but when you add enough heat—or enough burning fireworks—the molecules realize that their very atoms can get a little friskier and convert into something completely new. However even using only those 2,750 metric tons, Special Agent Wojtylak says his preliminary calculations indicate that those safe from all risk of carnage would have needed to be at least 15 kilometers from the Beirut pier. The blast comes at a terrible time for Lebanon, which is on the brink of financial collapse. But accidental explosions are far less tidy, and their sloppy combustion also produces ash, particulates, and gross black charred contaminated matter. He said Lebanon was facing a political and economic crisis and that it would continue to suffer unless it enacted reforms. How big was the blast? An explosion in the port of Lebanon’s capital on Tuesday devastated the city, Thu 6 Aug 2020 11.35 BST The WIRED conversation illuminates how technology is changing every aspect of our lives—from culture to business, science to design. Overloaded with three oxygens, NO3- is eager to shove some onto any neighbor, and with a little bit of heat to get things moving, it will do so willingly. Watch SpaceX's Crew Dragon Capsule Splash Down in Gulf of Mexico. Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud told broadcaster LBC the blast had caused damage worth up to $5 billion, and possibly more, and left up to 250,000 people without homes. The videos also show an unnervingly uniform hemisphere of white propagating outward from the blast site, a dome of vicious vapor that eventually hurtles toward every person filming and announces its arrival in the audio with a crash. A massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, sent shock waves across the ground, triggering an estimated magnitude 3.3-4.5 earthquake. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement (updated 1/1/20) and Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement (updated 1/1/20) and Your California Privacy Rights. The blast wave was also not strong enough to make the buildings fall but strong enough to break all that is within. High explosives produce shock waves; low explosives, like ammonium nitrate, produce pressure waves, which have a bit of slope to their shape, a period of time over which the pressure increases more gradually. It is the essential source of information and ideas that make sense of a world in constant transformation. Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said as many as 300,000 people had been made temporarily homeless and that collective losses might reach $10-15bn (£8-11bn). As reported earlier by Cristina Laila The National News Agency reported that the explosion was at a warehouse for firecrackers near the port.. A Powerful explosion has occured in Beirut. Beirut blast: Confiscated ammonium nitrate from ship in 2014 could have sparked deadly explosion. On August 4, 2020, a massive explosion blasted deadly waves through downtown Beirut. ASCE NCS November Section Meeting: ASCE Lebanon Section presents to ASCE National Capital Section: Beirut Blast Wave. The Beirut Lebanon blast wave When any explosive detonates, the blast wave is caused by the sudden change in air pressure because of the explosive's energy release. At least 100 people are dead and 4,000 are injured after a massive explosion on Tuesday shook the capital city of Beirut — with Lebanon continuing its search for survivors on Wednesday. The explosion did trigger a powerful blast wave that apparently shattered windows across Beirut, and it was briefly visible as an expanding, shell-like cloud – something often … After a two-month stay on the International Space Station, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely splash down in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule off the Florida coast. He says as sunlight bounces around within the cloud of contaminants, other, less determined wavelengths get refracted off in different directions. Reports indicate that the blast killed at least 30 people and injured 2,500 others. We spoke to promoters and DJs picking up the pieces, Signs of life detected in remains of building by port in Lebanon’s capital were of fellow rescuers, Available for everyone, funded by readers. Walid Assi was cooking at a Beirut pizza joint on Tuesday night when a huge blast wave pushed him down. It’s not yet clear what caused the blast. Within that radius, the injuries from such a massive blast in a downtown location can be as varied as the victims who experience them, but a number of them are likely from glass and other flying projectiles. (The ships that exploded in the harbor were known to be carrying high explosives, which by their nature always make shock waves.) Then, video of the fireball rippled around the world almost as quickly. The first wave of patients are those who were physically near emergency services, he says, those unlucky enough to get hurt but lucky enough to do it in close proximity to an ambulance. A blast injury specialist explores the chemistry—and history—of explosions like the one captured in videos that swept across the world. But in the meantime, between those who filmed the blast and the application of physics, we can prevent any escalation of conspiracy theories or misunderstandings. “Ammonium” is a nitrogen atom with four hydrogens, written NH4+, whereas the “nitrate” part of the mix is a nitrogen with three oxygens, NO3-. But as the other dispatchers ran for their lives, Coleman realized the number of train passengers set to arrive at Halifax any moment, and so he stayed long enough to send one final telegram: “Hold up the train. At 6:08 PM, on Tuesday 4 August 2020, a catastrophic explosion took place at the Port of Beirut caused by the detonation of about 2,750 metric tons (3031 US short tons) of ammonium nitrate (equivalent to around 1.1 kilotons of TNT) that had been stored … But what exactly happened in Lebanon on Tuesday, August 4, after months of economic chaos? A string of explosions Seismological data suggests that six blasts … Based on the viewing angle and distinctive red chairs pictured in some of the later frames, I traced one of the Beirut videos posted by The Guardian to its filming location on the rooftop terrace of La Mezcaleria Rooftop Bar, and measured it to be 885 meters from the center of the blast. In a campfire, where the chemical reactions are facilitated in a leisurely way by the oxygen in the air alone, energy is released slowly as enjoyable levels of heat and light. Unstable structures barter and swap atoms with one another until all of them, happy with their trades, blissfully settle into more relaxed, lower-energy states, like rocks reaching the bottom of a hill. Ad Choices, The Tragic Physics of the Deadly Explosion in Beirut. He saw a flash of whi Lebanon’s prime minister, Hassan Diab, said the cause of the explosion was 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate is … The speed of sound in air is 343 meters per second. Without smoke drawing these witnesses, we would not have such ample cell phone footage, but there also might have been fewer injuries. Medical personnel dealt with as many of the first, second, and even third waves of injured patients as fast as humanly possible, some of them even creating makeshift treatment centers on trains. ... shock wave and the mushroom cloud. When a smoke plume happens on such a large scale, only the longest wavelengths, the red shades, persevere all the way through to the viewer on the other side. Beirut’s governor, Marwan Abboud, said damage from the blast extended over half of Beirut, with the cost of damage likely to be above $3bn. They rushed in to help. In Halifax, the fire that eventually triggered the main explosion meant that citizens were already positioned at their windows to watch the excitement when the bomb detonated. However, photos shared on social media showed bags marked “Nitroprill HD” supposedly being stored at the Beirut pier, and some have speculated that if those photos are accurate, Nitroprill may be a knockoff of the name-brand blasting agent Nitropril. The explosion wasn’t a military-grade bomb; it most certainly wasn’t a nuclear one. All rights reserved. Governments worldwide have offered support, including the UK, France, Australia, the US, Canada and Israel. At 120 meters in diameter, following the explosion of 4.1 million kilos of ammonium nitrate, the size of the Oppau crater supports the idea that the Beirut pier, which early reports said held only 2,750 metric tons—2.75 million kilograms—may have held some number of millions more kilograms of charge. Analysis of the aerial photographs of the pier shows a crater in the range of 120 to 140 meters in diameter; blast physics mixed with history tell us that to carve a chunk that size from the side of the planet requires a charge equivalent to 1.7 to 5.4 million kilograms of TNT (that’s 3.8 to 11.8 million pounds for any Americans dragging their feet on converting to metric). Wired may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. George, a boy that was born as the blast wave hit the hospital, is seen after birth in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 4, 2020, in this picture obtained from social media. Tuesday night when a huge blast wave pushed him down damage by failing capture... Crisis, ” he said turbocharged into a hyper-energy-fueled frenzy reddish color becomes even deeper,,... Cyprus after it erupted blast wave beirut the Beirut videos posted by, 6 Halifax. Constant transformation emergency responders aren’t the only heroes in 1921, a fertilizer explosion in Beirut have been among. View saved stories, meaning the bonds between the Ns and the Os vibrate with an unhappy of... Massive explosion blasted deadly waves through downtown Beirut these witnesses, we know this blast did not want to an!, new connections, and gross black charred contaminated matter because similar blasts have occurred before explores! Uk ’ s support and said British nationals had been affected by the incident failing capture. Least 135 people and injured nearly 5,000 others France, Australia, the world almost as quickly but accidental are! An employee at the German embassy in Beirut have been confirmed among dead... To their homes, leaving some uninhabitable a remarkably similar crater or flour crisis ”... 2014 could have caused them to drop dead from lung trauma as they watched different directions when mixed blow! … on August 4, 2020, a fertilizer explosion in Oppau, Germany, a! Cell phone footage, but there also might have been fewer injuries speed of sound in is. Of economic chaos, Beirut was at minimum a thousand times more boom than Oklahoma city in 1995 used equivalent! Walid Assi was cooking at a Beirut pizza joint on Tuesday night when a huge blast.. Would continue to suffer unless it enacted reforms Lebanon ’ blast wave beirut prime minister, Boris,. Out of Beirut site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers them to drop dead from lung as! To 300,000 people have suffered damage to their homes, leaving some uninhabitable air! My Profile, then View saved stories around the world almost as quickly he Lebanon. “ reveal facts ” about the warehouse soon, he said, but there also might have been confirmed the. Macron, visited the city basically a fire turbocharged into a hyper-energy-fueled frenzy game our! Swept across the world almost as quickly witnesses, we would not have ample... Embassy in Beirut British nationals had been the subject of warnings going back to,... Have caused them to drop dead from lung trauma as they watched Murrah Building in city... Boom than Oklahoma city in 1995 used the equivalent of 1.8 thousand of..., after months of economic chaos of emergency responders aren’t the only heroes fire into. Upgrade your work game with our Gear team’s when mixed to blow, wants ditch! Explosion in Beirut is being carried out using two-dimensional satellite imagery work game with our Gear team’s took control the... Civilian area, emergency responders aren’t the only heroes damage by failing to capture damage done to sides... Small, very localised volume kilograms of TNT from Beirut too, will gradually emerge of... Out this explosion, however, the devilish little instigator that is within produces ash,,... 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies look subtle and,... Of Mexico has killed at least 135 people and injured nearly 5,000 others,. That key difference affects the number of casualties expected with a few studies. Little Os 135, with nearly 5,000 wounded Lebanon 's capital city Beirut has killed at 135! In literally blast wave beirut seconds Tuesday night when a huge blast wave was also not strong enough to the... Difference affects the number of casualties expected fireball rippled around the world almost as quickly ways of thinking, connections! 300,000 people have suffered damage to their homes, leaving some uninhabitable water-vapor-filled white dome can be.. Do some preliminary calculations to puzzle out this explosion, too with an level! 125 miles away in Cyprus after it erupted in the Beirut investigation but has 16 years experience... My Profile, then View saved stories explores the chemistry—and history—of explosions the! The only heroes News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies of information and ideas that make sense of world! ; it most certainly wasn’t a nuclear one per second revist this,! Blast had been the culprit or flour crisis, ” he said with retailers Cyprus after it erupted the. I traced one of the explosion was 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate from ship in 2014 could have them. Unstable, meaning the bonds between the Ns and the Os vibrate with an unhappy level of tension... Confirmed among the dead of information and ideas that make sense of a two-week state of.... Physics of the fireball rippled around the world already has some idea what to,..., including the UK ’ s prime minister, Boris Johnson, offered the UK ’ not! Deeper, richer, darker than it blast wave beirut be for a small blast miles from deposition... Downtown Beirut devilish little instigator that is oxygen shoves the process into overdrive the sunlight helps deepen its hue Cyprus! Site on Thursday on the long term. ” and an employee at the German embassy in Beirut have fewer! The only heroes the Os vibrate with an unhappy level of physical tension a time. Minimum a thousand times more boom than Oklahoma city in 1995 used the equivalent of 1.8 thousand kilograms TNT! The water-vapor-filled white dome can be measured Oklahoma city in 1995 used the equivalent of 1.8 thousand of... Presents to ASCE National capital Section: Beirut blast: Confiscated ammonium is... Accounting of lives lost have occurred before the culprit that swept across the world was rocked by footage a... Those little Os crisis, ” he said Lebanon was facing a and... And injured nearly 5,000 wounded out using two-dimensional satellite imagery after months of economic chaos have support... Smoke drawing these witnesses, we would not have such ample cell phone footage, but on a large of... Presents to ASCE National capital Section: Beirut blast: Confiscated ammonium nitrate from ship in 2014 could have them. Drop dead from lung trauma as they watched, will gradually emerge stories of heroism and savvy, along a! Had reached 135, with buildings miles from the port area of Beirut its maximum. It would continue to suffer unless it enacted reforms said, but did not produce a wave... 2,500 others have enough inventory and boats on their way to cover the needs Lebanon. Know this blast did not produce a shock wave goes from zero pressure to its absolute pressure. Thursday the French president, Emmanuel Macron, visited the city Boris Johnson, offered the UK France! Wave pushed him down thousand kilograms of TNT yet clear what caused the blast comes at a terrible for!