Beirut Blast: On August 4, 2020, a mishap in Lebanon led to a massive explosion of the stored ammonium nitrate at the Beirut seaport. The Beirut Blast was so massive that it can be compared with the atom bomb explosion bombarded on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The blast killed approximately 200 people, injured more than 5000, and made 300,000 people temporarily homeless. The explosion happened in a warehouse where nearly 3000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been kept for the last six years.
What is Ammonium Nitrate?
Ammonium nitrate is a white crystalline solid that can turn into rocky material when kept in the open air for a long time. This is exactly what happened at the port. The huge pile of ammonium nitrate turned into a rocky material that exploded when it caught the fire somehow.
Where it is used?
It is used mostly to make nitrogen fertilizers and explosives. It is also used as a nutrient for growing yeast in the lab.
How dangerous is Ammonium Nitrate?
Small amounts of ammonium nitrate can be handled with little precautions. However, handling a large amount of the chemical may lead to mishaps like Beirut Blast. It is not found naturally in the ground. It is artificially made in the industries and labs by a chemical reaction between Ammonium and Nitric Acid.
Can Ammonium Nitrate be used to make Bombs?
Armies and military forces have used this chemical to make bombs. Terrorists, in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, used two tonnes of ammonium nitrate to make bombs that killed 168 people.
Has anything like Beirut Blast happened in the past?
Unfortunately, these kinds of mishaps has often created massive destruction before.
In1921, Oppau, Germany had to face an explosion of 4,500 tonnes of ammonium nitrate which killed more than five hundred people. Similar events have occurred in the past like the 1947 Galveston Bay, Texas Incident, and 2015 Tianjin Incident in China.