BEIRUT: The mega-blast that tore through Lebanon‘s capital with the force of an earthquake, killing more than 100 people and injuring over 4,000, resulted from the ignition of a huge depot of ammonium nitrate at Beirut‘s port, officials say, but many questions remain.
Here is what we know so far:
*An initial large explosion in the port area of Beirut took place around 6:00 pm (1500 GMT), resulting in a fire, several small blasts and then a colossal explosion that flattened the harbour front and surrounding buildings.
*Seismologists measured the event, which blew out windows at the city’s international airport nine kilometres (more than five miles) away, as the equivalent of a 3.3-magnitude earthquake.
*Video stills show an intense blazing fireball rising above a line of massive storage silos, then a billowing cloud towering into the sky as a powerful shockwave rips through Lebanon’s biggest city.
*Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertiliser, stored in a portside warehouse had blown up, sparking “a disaster in every sense of the word”.
*Ammonium nitrate is an odourless crystalline substance that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
*When combined with fuel oils, it creates a potent explosive widely used in the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups such as the Taliban for improvised explosive devices.
*Lebanon’s General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim said the material had been confiscated years earlier and stored in the warehouse, located close to Beirut’s shopping and nightlife districts.
*There has been no indication from Lebanese officials that the explosions were caused deliberately.
*US President Donald Trump said late Tuesday that US generals had told him the explosions appeared to have been caused by a “bomb of some kind.” “It looks like a terrible attack,” Trump said. But a Pentagon spokesman, when asked about the president’s remarks, told AFP that “we don’t have anything for you” and “you will have to reach out to the White House for clarification.”
*Diab’s government described the circumstances at the port that led to the explosion as “unacceptable” and vowed to investigate.
*The blasts killed more than 100 people and injured over 4,000, the Lebanese Red Cross said Wednesday, in the latest updated toll.
In Video:What we know about the Lebanon explosion