When President Trump floated the idea that the horrific explosion that is crippling Beirut right now was potentially an attack, I had an immediate reaction.
No, it wasn’t.
If it had been a rocket attack or missile or fighter or any other kind of weapon of war, there would have been evidence of it. The blast was instantly circulated on social media from dozens of angles. There were shots of people from their apartments, from boats out on the water, from the street, from just about everywhere. None of the shots showed any indication of any kind of attack. Unless a bomb was detonated on the ground via truck.
Then I realized where the blast had originated from and the whole thing made even more sense. The explosion’s epicenter was in the heart of the port district and that is when I knew what this was. It was a chemical explosion.
Heavy Industrial Explosions
History, unfortunately, is littered with examples of volatile materials and industries leading to devastating blasts that rock communities. Just last year, a chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas, exploded sending twisted pieces of metal flying for miles. The shockwave was felt by tens of thousands of people and a shelter in place order was issued for the area surrounding the plant due to concern over dangerous contagions in the air.
In 2013, a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas, near Waco, exploded killing over a dozen people. The culprit in that blast was ammonium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate is currently the suspect in the Beirut blast as well.
In fact, the worst industrial disaster in United States history was caused by unstable ammonium nitrate.
In 1947, a freighter carrying 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate, was being loaded in Texas City, Texas, when a fire broke out on board. An attempt was made to douse the flames but it was too late.
The explosion was devastating and devastatingly similar to the one that took place this week in Lebanon. The explosion killed 581 people and was one of the largest explosions ever to occur at the time.
Another Industrial Accident
Is it possible that the explosion was set deliberately? Sure. It is far more probable, that the corruption and graft that has plagued Lebanon for years simply allowed this cache of nitrates to be left unattended and improperly stored for too long until an accident happened.
Never attribute to malice, what you can first attribute to incompetence.
The location of the blast’s origin, the look of the blast, and the reports that ammonium nitrate was indeed stored in the vicinity all add up to yet another example of the material going up in flames. What can you expect from a substance that is used in equal parts for agriculture and war? But it looks like this was not an attack of any kind, just another unfortunate event to beset a country that can’t get itself back on its feet.
Other News From The Region
Israel reported foiled an attack on its border in the Golan Heights region. This is the latest military event in a growing string of events between Israel and Syria. Israel responded by striking multiple targets within the war-torn country.
Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan continue to hold negotiations over Ethiopia’s controversial dam project on the Blue Nile. Egypt and Sudan are worried their access to fresh water from the Nile will be impeded by the multi-billion dollar project.
Pakistan claims it has been mediating disputes between Saudi Arabia and Iran in response to a recent string of attacks on oil infrastructure at sea and on land. They say mediations are going slowly, but for now, no further incidents have occurred.