Massive Explosion in Beirut

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Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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38 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    When I saw the first reports of the explosions, they were from closer to the middle of the city and didn’t see the water.

    So I thought it was a nuke. A small one… but a nuke.

    I am relieved that it might not have been a nuke.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    I admit to wondering for a moment why there were so many phones at the ready taking pictures of the explosion.

    Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Early reports are, of course, contradicting each other:

    Report

  4. Avatar George Turner
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    says:

    Man, the aftermath videos of that place look almost as bad as Portland or Milwaukee. ^_^

    Is it time for the region’s urban centers to discuss zoning laws and why we have them?

    And a big thumbs up to the Mossad for inevitably taking the blame for whatever happened.Report

  5. Avatar Oscar Gordon
    Ignored
    says:

    First off – Holy Shite! There is your earth shattering Ka-BOOM!

    Second – anyone within a, what, 4 block radius, maybe more, is very likely dead or seriously wounded unless they were behind solid shelter. That was a helluva shock wave, the kind that kills you instantly by turning you into jelly.

    That second video does suggest some kind of fireworks or munitions (lots of bright flashes in the smoke right before the boom). I first thought it might be electrical arcs (like transformers exploding), but I didn’t see wires or towers.

    I’m curious about the red dust you see right before the shockwave.Report

  6. fillyjonk fillyjonk
    Ignored
    says:

    Some sources (The Guardian) are saying 25 dead, 2500 injured. This is pretty bad. Also, it may damage the ability to import necessary supplies….

    that said, I’m relieved it was (apparently) a horrible accident rather than a provoking incident.Report

  7. Avatar veronica d
    Ignored
    says:

    If you enjoy goofy Twitter science, we have an estimate of the energy of the explosion: https://twitter.com/EmilyGorcenski/status/1290733401796947975

    The result: 1.7 ktons.

    So what exactly was in that warehouse?Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d
      Ignored
      says:

      My guess, there was a pressurized tank of something buried under ground. See all that red dust right before the shockwave?, that was the explosion that punctured the tank. High pressure gas blows up all the dust, then the fire ignites the gas, and WHOMP!

      Now if there were munitions in that warehouse, and they were cooking off, I could see that puncturing the tank. But unless they had a MOAB in there, there are no conventional munitions that can do that.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon
        Ignored
        says:

        Twitter is suggesting that there was a seized shipment of ammonium nitrate: https://twitter.com/HachemYassin/status/1290702640930791424 . The numbers seem plausible, although, from my rather cursory research, it appears rather difficult to get ammonium nitrate to explode, without mixing it with fuel or something.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to veronica d
          Ignored
          says:

          It’s pretty hard to get AN to explode without using a pretty descent detonator, such as an exploding fireworks factory or ammo depot. Most of what detonated is indicated by the giant red cloud, which is probably NO2.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to George Turner
            Ignored
            says:

            That looks like dust, not gasReport

            • Avatar George Turner in reply to Oscar Gordon
              Ignored
              says:

              Here’s a story about a regular mine blast which caused a similar orange cloud, which explains how a fuel-starved AN explosion creates them.

              Nitrogen dioxide from mine blast causes orange cloud.

              Note that there was a huge gray cloud prior to the major detonation. The red cloud was the part that went straight up.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to George Turner
                Ignored
                says:

                OK, that makes sense, especially if there was AN in there. The grey cloud is just ash, but the red cloud is AN burning poorly with some kind of hydrocarbon (what are the chances there was bunker fuel nearby?), and then it suddenly had a good enough ANFO mix to give us the WHOMP!Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                Pure AN can also detonate, but it takes a bigger kick and the fuel-starved reaction isn’t as powerful. As an aside, mixing AN with nitro-methane (used by race cars and two-stroke model airplanes) is about twice as powerful as AN with fuel oil.

                Anyway, here’s a 1966 government study of why and how ammonium nitrate explodes during transport or in storage, because when it does happen, it’s very bad.

                Explosion Hazards of Ammonium Nitrate Under Fire Exposure

                It has lots of charts, graphs, and tables.

                From the summary.

                One important result of the investigation was the demonstration of a
                marked reduction in the critical diameter for detonation of raw AN at elevated temperatures. Typical fertilizer-grade AN at ordinary temperatures will have a critical diameter in the range of 10 to perhaps 40 inches. In contrast the same AN, when heated to near its melting point, may have a critical
                diameter in the order of only 4 to 5 inches under light confinement and as small as 2 inches under heavy confinement. Similarly, contamination with fuel substances, particularly finely divided solid fuels or liquid fuels, effects a reduction in the critical diameter as well as producing more energetic systems. Another result was the confirmation of reports from Canada that a small amount of water would increase the shock sensitivity of AN-FO. Although these data were obtained using explosive-derived shocks, they are significant to the fire problems because of the possibility of fragments being projected into the hot AN by adjacent explosions resulting from the fire. A smaller critical diameter means that a smaller fragment or one traveling at a lower velocity may be capable of initiating the AN; this possibility is enhanced by multiple fragments. This fact was confirmed by the results on projectile initiation of AN at elevated temperatures.

                In 1921 an explosion at the Haber-Bosch plant in Oppau Germany killed over 500 workers. Bosch was left distraught by it, in part because they didn’t think it could happen until it did.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to George Turner
                Ignored
                says:

                Seems it’s happened here as well
                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_City_disasterReport

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d
      Ignored
      says:

      As for what was in the tank? LNG, LP?Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to veronica d
      Ignored
      says:

      We have seismic readings: https://twitter.com/nktpnd/status/1290724023375220736?s=19

      Ranges of 3.5M to 4.5M, which someone in that thread claims matches a 2 kton blast.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Footage from a car crossing a bridge.

    Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Apparently people are reading this and saying “Holy $#!+”

    Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Mistakes were made.

      I’m uncomfortable with the desire to punish after events like these. I feel like, these kinds of fuckups are about systems, not individuals. Figure out why the system failed. Then fix the system.

      I worry the desire to find scapegoats, even if they indeed share culpability, distract from systemic issues.

      At my job, when there is a fuckup, provided there was no malice, we don’t go after individuals. We examine systems. In fact, the main role of culpable individuals is to explain how better systems could have helped. You get better answers when they don’t fear punishment.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        I thought “surely this isn’t a Dark Universe Gomer Pyle” thing…

        But then…

        Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        There is also the very real possibility that the AN doesn’t belong to anyone. Shipping companies go out of business all the time, and their cargoes get warehoused while the company’s assets are litigated by creditors. Whoever owned it may be dead, or have no legal claim to it.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        Mistakes were made.

        I initially thought you were being sarcastic. I mean, isn’t this overused blame-shift one of the main reasons everyone is so cynical about politics and government?Report

        • Avatar veronica d in reply to Stillwater
          Ignored
          says:

          Well yes, I was being sarcastic when I said “mistakes were made.” The rest of the post, however, was earnest.

          They may find some set of individuals who clearly screwed up. More likely, however, is that this was a systems failure, with many individuals each screwing up in small ways. The temptation will be to find a relatively powerless individual and punish them. This will give the public a desired sense of revenge. However, doing this doesn’t actually fix anything. It doesn’t make these kinds of disasters less likely.

          There does seem to be a document trail, if Twitter is to be believed. I expect everyone in that document chain was making a reasonable effort to manage the port. However, I expect each person had other priorities. Thus it was easy to kick the can down the road.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        Mistakes were made.

        I initially thought you were being sarcastic. Isn’t this overused blame-shift one of the main reasons everyone is so cynical about politics and government?Report

  10. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    The entire thing seems to have been a really big accident rather than military action or a terrorist attack. Something caused stored fireworks to explode, which resulted in a chain reaction of explosions.

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-involvement-in-massive-beirut-blast-ruled-out-by-both-sides/?fbclid=IwAR2DWukNi2y6ZB5QSCgDUx1kK6PRiTIoMf9TXNyqdWSxkYgXY2z-DHuPULsReport

  11. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    I know it’s the NYT and paywall, yadda yadda, but the before & after of the port is just…

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/05/world/middleeast/beirut-lebanon-explosion.htmlReport

  12. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    A thread placing the explosion and its various radii in other cities.

    Someone on Twitter pointed out that the New York City one had 15 million people in it.

    Report

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