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Beirut Explosion

Colin Parkinson

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mariomike said:
For context, the Oklahoma City bombers used 2 tons of ammonium nitrate to build the bomb that blew open the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building way back in 1995, a deadly explosion that killed 168 people.

I remember truckers protesting to the news when BC Ferries declared it AN dangerous cargo and banned it on passenger ferries.
 

YZT580

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This was not an explosion that Israel would have instigated.  Their actions are almost without exception far more discriminatory.  They are extremely conscious of collateral casualties all during their planning and execution.  Yes they have made mistakes in the past but certainly not of this magnitude.  Two possible scenarios: most likely, accidental caused by poor storage or maintenance, construction errors similar in circumstances to the fire on the Richard; second and less likely, someone was mixing up a device for later use and goofed.  I say less likely because the Palestinians have decades of practice making bombs and whilst they do make mistakes, they seem to practice isolation when they are working. 
 

Retired AF Guy

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Daily Beast on how the ammonia nitrate ended up in Beirut Harbour.

Beirut Ignored Public Warning There Was a Russian ‘Bomb’ at the Port

APOCALYPTIC

Authorities were warned soon after a Russian ship brought in the ammonium nitrate that blew up Beirut’s port, but did nothing.

Barbie Latza Nadeau
Correspondent-At-Large
Nico Hines
London Editor
Updated Aug. 05, 2020 2:04PM ET / Published Aug. 05, 2020 5:38AM ET

Years before a devastating blast killed at least 100 people and injured more than 4,000 in Beirut Tuesday, a maritime analyst issued a public warning that a Russian “floating bomb” was languishing in the city’s docks.

Maritime monitoring systems tracked the Rhosus into port in Beirut in September 2013. The ship, which was flagged in Moldova, listed its official cargo as “agricultural commodities.”

The 2,750 metric ton cargo of ammonium nitrate would primarily be used for fertilizers or high power explosives. To put it in context, less than two metric tons of ammonium nitrate was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

The Russian-owned cargo ship called into port in Beirut for reasons unknown, possibly after running into trouble at sea en route from Georgia to Mozambique. Beirut authorities blocked it from leaving and the dangerous cargo was offloaded and stored in Hanger 12 in the port a year later, according to the maritime monitoring website Fleetmon.

Mikhail Voytenko, a Russian maritime analyst based in Thailand, warned in July 2014 that the ship, which he said was owned by a Russian operator, was effectively a “floating bomb.”

Voytenko said the ship’s owners had abandoned the ship and its crew, and the Lebanese authorities had failed to protect the deadly cargo. “There are a lot of restrictions, regulations and rules to stick to when talking about storing explosives like ammonium but they just stored it in a warehouse and forgot about it,” he told The Daily Beast by phone from close to the Laem Chabang port in Thailand where he works.

The Russian captain of the abandoned ship, Boris Prokoshev, and three Ukrainian crew members Valery Lupol, 3rd mechanic Andrey Golovyoshkin and boatswain Boris Musinchak, were made to stay on the ship with the deadly cargo after the other six crew members were released.

They launched an appeal to get out, writing to Russian and Ukrainian journalists and to a group that supports seamen.

“The shipowner abandoned the vessel. The cargo owner has ammonium nitrate in the hold,” Musinchak wrote in an email to both the Assol Seamen Aid Foundation and the diplomatic services of Ukraine. “It is an explosive substance... This is how we live for free on a powder keg for 10 months.”

A Lebanese court then reportedly gave permission to unload the cargo, but not before asking the sailors to find a buyer for it themselves, which they claimed in the email they could not because all communication was stripped from the ship.

On Wednesday, Prokoshev appeared on Russian television, insisting that even the lawyer who tried to free them was corrupt and not concerned about the fate of the ammonium nitrate. “For some reason, the consignee did not lift a finger to get his cargo out,” he said.

The ship was owned and operated by Igor Grechushkin, a Russian, who now moved to Cyprus, according to the stranded sailors. Calls to Grechushkin were not immediately answered.

Badri Daher, the current head of Lebanon’s customs authority, told reporters on the scene that the explosion was linked to the ammonium nitrate. Several people in the open source intelligence community later tweeted photos of loosely packed bags of white powder, assumed to be the substance. The Daily Beast has not verified the authenticity of the photos.

On June 27, 2014, Shafik Merhi, then head of the Lebanese Customs Authority wrote to Lebanese officials under the heading “urgent matters,” asking for help to secure the explosives, according to a copy of the letter shared on Twitter by human rights activist Wadih Al Asmar.

Merhi then reportedly sent five more letters, in December 5, 2014, May 6, 2015, May 20, 2016, October 13, 2016, and October 27, 2017, pleading for help, according to Al Jazeera, which reports one as saying, “In view of the serious danger of keeping these goods in the hangar in unsuitable climatic conditions, we reaffirm our request to please request the marine agency to re-export these goods immediately to preserve the safety of the port and those working in it, or to look into agreeing to sell this amount.”

Another letter, this time written by Daher, the incoming head of Lebanese Customs Authority reiterated the warning of “the danger of leaving these goods in the place they are, and to those working there.”

Lebanon’s new prime minister Hassan Diab, who came to the job in January 2020, alluded to the theory that the devastation could have been avoided, promising that “all those responsible for this catastrophe will pay a price.”

President Donald Trump referred to the explosion as an attack, though local authorities say it was likely set off by a welder working nearby. “I’ve met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that . . . this was not some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “They seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind.”

On Wednesday, hundreds were still reported missing from the massive explosion, which generated seismic waves similar to a 3.3 magnitude earthquake.

Beirut port, which is dubiously nicknamed the Cave of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves because of the alleged corruption tied to its management, has been under intense scrutiny in recent months after the October Revolution began last fall.

Link

 

mariomike

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Film of an elderly lady in her blown out apartment playing, 'Auld Lang Syne' on her piano. That song always provokes nostalgic memories in me. I suppose it does in others too.
https://www.google.com/search?source=hp&ei=t4ksX5-SD-aC9PwP67uAmA0&q=beirut+playing+piano&oq=beirut+playing+piano&gs_lcp=CgZwc3ktYWIQAzIFCAAQxAI6CwguELEDEIMBEJMCOgsILhCxAxDHARCjAjoICAAQsQMQgwE6DgguELEDEIMBEMcBEKMCOggILhCxAxCDAToECAAQAzoCCAA6BQgAELEDOgIILjoHCC4QAxCTAjoICC4QxwEQrwE6BAgAEA06BggAEA0QHjoGCAAQFhAeOggIABAIEA0QHjoICCEQFhAdEB5QzBVYhmxg23BoAXAAeACAAaIBiAGIE5IBBDQuMTeYAQCgAQGqAQdnd3Mtd2l6&sclient=psy-ab&ved=0ahUKEwjfyYHD1YfrAhVmAZ0JHesdANMQ4dUDCAw&uact=5#spf=1596754375346


The scene reminded me of photos during the war.
 

dapaterson

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For a sense of the scale of the explosion, this is the radius mapped against a number of Canadian cities and their ports.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/canadian-cities-beirut-1.5678077?__vfz=medium%3Dsharebar
 

Old Sweat

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A few observations from an old nuclear target analyst (a RCA specialty way back when) based on what I recall. The Beirut blast was relatively low-powered for the bulk of the chemicals. HE, or even more so, a nuke of equivalent power would have had a much greater effect.

Re a nuke of 2-3 kilotons, the energy would have released instantaneously as mostly blast and heat/flash energy, with only a small proportion as radio-active contamination. That still would have made an extended circular area around ground zero too dangerous to enter. Again, most of the damage would have been from blast and heat, and the area of devastation would have been larger, with anything inflammable burning fiercely. Because it was a ground burst, defined as a detonation when the fireball makes contact with the surface, there would have been a large area downwind of the site subject to dangerous levels of fallout. This would also have spread across the countryside and perhaps even around the world, carried by prevailing winds.

Note that the combined nuclear effects - blast including blowdown to effect ground movement, fire, and radiation - can be effected by varying the height of burst.

(At the time of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor account, I did a rough plot based on weather data and concluded there was no immediate danger of fallout to Canada if the reactor had exploded, but for much of the Eastern United States, it was another matter. Fortunately, it was contained.)

And that is why I am eternally grateful that this is the one military qualification to never got to use.
 

Good2Golf

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Old Sweat, thanks for this insight. Follow on (non-nuke) question: what affect dust blast velocity have, given AN has an advertised velocity around 2500 m/s compared to RDX/C4’s ~8000 m/s?

Regards
G2G
 

Kat Stevens

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AN explosions, having a comparatively low velocity, are more “thump” than “crack”. They have less of a shattering effect and more of a lifting effect, compare ditching dynamite to C4 or NG dynamites, for instance. Note the size and duration of the fireball compared to an HE blast, it lingers quite a while, whereas HE is a massive flash for the most part, depending on what it’s taking along with it. The reason ANFO is so destructive, if I recall correctly, is that the fuel oil acts as a catalyst to the AN, not the AN used as an oxidizer for the FO as some armchair demo experts seem to think. I’m probably telling everyone how to suck lemons here, but if an equal quantity of ANFO was in that building, a large chunk of Beirut would probably be just a memory right now. Conversely, the same amount of ditching dynamite would have left a very deep hole in the ground. If this is incorrect or useless info, delete at will, I won’t be hurt.
 

SeaKingTacco

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Good2Golf said:
Old Sweat, thanks for this insight. Follow on (non-nuke) question: what affect dust blast velocity have, given AN has an advertised velocity around 2500 m/s compared to RDX/C4’s ~8000 m/s?

Regards
G2G

There is an excellent article in Wired that covers the physics of low velocity of detonation vs high velocity of detonation.

Basically, from Brassey’s, I recall that low velocity detonations (AN is considered low. I cannot remember what the cut off is for high), the rise time of the pressure wave is relatively slow. This is important, because beyond a certain point, the pressure wave becomes a shock wave, which imparts all of its energy on an object at once. The relatively slow passage of the pressure wave is much more tolerated by the human body.

This made the Beirut explosion significantly more survivable- even amazingly close to ground zero. Had it been an equivalent quantity of C4, there would have been significantly more fatalities from burst lungs, etc.

There are probably a few Sappers who can now chime in and correct my errors!

I see Target Up has done just that!
 

brihard

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SeaKingTacco said:
There is an excellent article in Wired that covers the physics of low velocity of detonation vs high velocity of detonation.

Basically, from Brassey’s, I recall that low velocity detonations (AN is considered low. I cannot remember what the cut off is for high), the rise time of the pressure wave is relatively slow. This is important, because beyond a certain point, the pressure wave becomes a shock wave, which imparts all of its energy on an object at once. The relatively slow passage of the pressure wave is much more tolerated by the human body.

This made the Beirut explosion significantly more survivable- even amazingly close to ground zero. Had it been an equivalent quantity of C4, there would have been significantly more fatalities from burst lungs, etc.

There are probably a few Sappers who can now chime in and correct my errors!

I see Target Up has done just that!

Thanks, I wondered about that. One of the videos looked to have been shot from a neighbouring building, and it looked like the person with the camera moved and picked it up after the blast. I was astonished by that.
 

Kat Stevens

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Colin P said:
As I recall low explosive is a burn rate of less than 800m/sec and high is above that

Typically 1000 m/s is the line between deflagration and detonation, but it's a murky line at best.
 

Good2Golf

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Thanks TU and SKT.  tU’s point of ANFO is a good one...isn’t FO something like 6-8% mass of ANFO?  From reviewing my 1st year Chemistry (SKT will remember ‘Beaker’) I understood AN’s Mode IV exothermic decomposition is where the explosive force primarily comes from.  Yeah, gotta love the armchair quarterbacks who know just enough about oxidizers and reduction agents to definitively know AN isn't explosive... ::)
 

Kat Stevens

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Good2Golf said:
Thanks TU and SKT.  tU’s point of ANFO is a good one...isn’t FO something like 6-8% mass of ANFO?  From reviewing my 1st year Chemistry (SKT will remember ‘Beaker’) I understood AN’s Mode IV exothermic decomposition is where the explosive force primarily comes from.  Yeah, gotta love the armchair quarterbacks who know just enough about oxidizers and reduction agents to definitively know AN isn't explosive... ::)

You have no idea how many people I've had to correct when they've said AN has no innate explosive potential. I tell them to throw a bag of fertilizer in their wood stove and get back to me. I've been told MacVeigh's little physics experiment was due to the amount of diesel in his device. It only takes about 210'C if I recall right to make AN behave very badly.
 

FJAG

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Old Sweat said:
A few observations from an old nuclear target analyst (a RCA specialty way back when) based on what I recall. The Beirut blast was relatively low-powered for the bulk of the chemicals. HE, or even more so, a nuke of equivalent power would have had a much greater effect.

Re a nuke of 2-3 kilotons, the energy would have released instantaneously as mostly blast and heat/flash energy, with only a small proportion as radio-active contamination. That still would have made an extended circular area around ground zero too dangerous to enter. Again, most of the damage would have been from blast and heat, and the area of devastation would have been larger, with anything inflammable burning fiercely. Because it was a ground burst, defined as a detonation when the fireball makes contact with the surface, there would have been a large area downwind of the site subject to dangerous levels of fallout. This would also have spread across the countryside and perhaps even around the world, carried by prevailing winds.

Note that the combined nuclear effects - blast including blowdown to effect ground movement, fire, and radiation - can be effected by varying the height of burst.

(At the time of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor account, I did a rough plot based on weather data and concluded there was no immediate danger of fallout to Canada if the reactor had exploded, but for much of the Eastern United States, it was another matter. Fortunately, it was contained.)

And that is why I am eternally grateful that this is the one military qualification to never got to use.

Ditto. To run some numbers here:

The relative effectiveness factor (RE factor) relates an explosive's demolition power to that of TNT, in units of the TNT equivalent/kg (TNTe/kg). The RE factor is the relative mass of TNT to which an explosive is equivalent: The greater the RE, the more powerful the explosive

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TNT_equivalent

The RE of Ammonium Nitrate is .32 and therefore the equivalency for 2,750 tonnes (or 3,030 short tons) of AN would be 970 tons or a .97 kiloton of TNT burst or very close to a 1 KT nuclear burst. You may recall that Little Boy at Hiroshima was a 16 KT nuke.

The detonation velocity of AN is 2,700 m/s v TNTs of 6,900 m/s

:cheers:
 
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stellarpanther

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The Lebanese government has announced it is resigning.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-53720383

 

AmmoTech90

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One thing to keep in mind when comparing a conventional explosion to a nuclear one is that 50% of a nuclear explosion's energy is released in radiation.  This means that the 970 ton equivalency mentioned above makes this roughly equal to a 2kt nuke.

Op SNOWBALL and similar shots used 500 tons of TNT to simulate a 1kt nuke's blast effects.  These were judged to be a tool for judging to effects on both above and below ground structures.
 

jmt18325

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Canada has contributed an additional $25M to relief operations:

https://twitter.com/journo_dale/status/1292980512101867520?s=20
 

Colin Parkinson

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Claims are being made that Hezbollah blocked efforts to remove it. If true, it could be they knew it was safe from being bombed by Israel due to the collateral damage such an act would cause at that location. It would also appear that Hezbollah relief efforts in the affected area is not as strong as one might think they would be, perhaps the areas impacted weaken rival groups which they see as long term good for them. 
 
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