“Beirut explosion: former port worker says fireworks stored in hangar” Guardian


“We complained a lot about this over the years,” said Shehadi, who worked at the port until emigrating to Canada in March this year. “Every week, the customs people came and complained and so did the state security officers. The army kept telling them they had no other place to put this. Everyone wanted to be the boss, and no one wanted to make a real decision.”

In addition, the hangar housed a quantity of fireworks, Shehadi said, which customs had confiscated in about 2009-10 and which he said he had personally seen delivered on a forklift. “There were 30 to 40 nylon bags of fireworks inside warehouse 12,” he said.

“They were on the left-hand side when you entered the door. I used to complain about this. It wasn’t safe. There was also humidity there. This was a disaster waiting to happen. The port workers did not put the chemicals there in the first place. That outrage rests with the government.”  Guardian


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25 Responses to “Beirut explosion: former port worker says fireworks stored in hangar” Guardian

  1. turcopolier says:

    Sadly, this reminds of the old saying in US Army SF “There are old demolition men and there are bold demolition me, but there are no old bold demolition men.”

  2. Mike46 says:

    The first news report after the explosion that I heard coming out of Lebanon that day was of a fire in a warehouse storing fireworks.

  3. Leith says:

    State Security also knew that the AN was in the warehouse. They had investigated it a year ago and reported the findings to the PM and Army Intel. And yet when the fire first started an officer of State Security told the fire department that there were only fireworks there. Both the Army and State Security are on the investigating committee. Even Nasrallah has said he wants the Lebanese Army to investigate. But it seems they and state security are compromised from the start.

  4. Barbara Ann says:

    Interesting. This is what I suspected from the video evidence – that the fireworks were in the same building as the Nitroprill/AN.
    In a region where we are used to seeing IED’s built and used with deliberate malintent, is is tragically ironic that the biggest one of all was seemingly both assembled and detonated by accident.
    My hope is that this cataclysm can act as the catalyst to bring the Lebanese to work together and drag themselves out of the deep hole they are in.

  5. Jack says:

    This is a classic case of ineptitude and corruption. In any case no one in the top echelons will be held accountable as politics will always intervene.
    Not much different than the corruption we see growing in our nation’s capital and in the capital’s of our states. Honor as a social virtue has long left our societies.

  6. Mike46 says:

    No fireworks mentioned in this account. Not sure if the photo is of the workmen repairing the doors in the hour prior to the explosion.
    “On the 4th of August, at 15:00 local time, a blacksmith was asked to close the holes in the warehouse to prevent potential smuggling of the content. The blacksmith was not informed about the hazardous content of the warehouse, nor he was told to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of metal particles that produce fragments and can trigger a fire. He was working at a distance no more than a few centimetres from the AN bags that were lying on the floor, from which a clear substance was leaking. Once the job was done, between 16:30 and 17:00, smoke was seen coming from the warehouse.
    Firemen were called to deal with the potential fire. At 18:08 the first explosion was heard, followed by the second one over a minute later. After the first explosion, a fire ignited inside the warehouse. The fire generated more heat, enough for the entire stock of AN to blow up and create a vacuum (negative pressure). The pressure of the explosion caused the many casualties and devastating destruction in the city.
    Who called the blacksmith and allocated the budget for his work? Was he informed of the hazard of welding next to Ammonium Nitrate? Why were the 2,750 tons of AN left for more than six years in non-regulation storage for no justifiable reason whatsoever?”
    Could have been metal fragments from a disk grinder, spark’s from a cutting torch or arc welder that smoldered for a while then began to flame.

  7. longarch says:

    Some amateur journalist friends of mine speculated that foul play could be proved if one could prove that the blast was equivalent to (say) three kilotons but the ammonium nitrate should have accounted for (say) one kiloton. One flaw with that argument is that while the quantity of ammonium nitrate can be estimated, the quantity of fireworks is unknown. Furthermore, the overall blast may have been much smaller than some initial estimates.
    CNN reported:

    Anthony May, a retired ATF explosives investigator for the US government said, the amount of explosives and the shockwaves created by the blast, “is typical of what would be equivalent to a kiloton nuclear bomb going off as far as the explosive weight is concerned.”
    “There was no nuclear material that we know of involved in this, but the shock wave generated, the blast wave generated is at equivalent to a small nuclear device,” May said.

    Statista reported:

    a team from the University of Sheffield estimated the strength of the explosion to be around 1.5 kilotons in TNT equivalent.

    In this case, I am biased. I want to argue for foul play, but I do not believe that the evidence supports allegations of foul play.

  8. Mike46 says:

    And now we have this from Bolton’s bunch:
    Lebanon—What happened?
    by David Wurmser – remember him from Iraq War fame?
    It’s rather entertaining.

  9. Mike46 says:

    Interesting interview :
    Lecturer and activist Rania Masri says that the disaster is the product of a corrupt, sectarian political system maintained by foreign powers.
    And this by, of all people, Tom Friedman @the NYT. I haven’t had much use for Friedman since the Iraq War. Maybe he’s trying to atone for his past sins but I wouldn’t bet on it. It’s not bad, IMO.
    Beirut’s Blast Is a Warning for America.
    In this country, as in Lebanon, everything is now politics.

  10. turcopolier says:

    To say that the Lebanese organization of society and politics by sect is “colonial” is a bit much since they created this organization in the “National Pact” and have continued to live this way after and since the withdrawal of the French from control of Lebanon in 1943.

  11. Mike46 says:

    Colonel: Thank you for the reply. I will try to learn more about the National Pact & the multiconfessional state of Lebanon.


    Col. Lang:
    In 2018 elections, 289,174 votes were cast for the the Shia Party Of God, winning 12 seats in the Lebanese parliament.
    The Christian Lebanese Forces party, received 143,140 votes and won 12 seats in the Lebanese parliament.
    I think the abolition of the current system – which seeks to accommodate every sect – in favor of a non-sectarian parliamentary system would be a sensible idea.

  13. Leith says:

    The Lebanese diaspora has done extremely well for themselves. IN particular Lebanese-Americans have done well not only in business but also done well in politics and performed well in government: for example governors John & Chris Sununu, Vic Atiyeh, and some other guvs. Plus several US Senators, several dozen US Representatives, and some Cabinet Secretaries. No crooks and no corruption that I’m aware of, unless you count lobbying.
    So why is government in the Lebanese homeland so chaotic? IMO it has been outside influence. Not just by France, Syria, Israel, and KSA. It goes back a lot further than that. Ottomans? Crusaders? Byzantines? Seleucids? Achmaemenids? Assyrians? Hittites? Egyptians? And plenty more that I’ve forgotten or never knew of.

  14. Leith says:

    @Longarch: “…University of Sheffield estimated the strength of the explosion to be around 1.5 kilotons in TNT equivalent.”
    Wikipedia claims 1.8 kilotons of TNT equivalent. But the comparisons are useless unless they factor in the major difference in detonation velocity between TNT (6900 m/s) and AN (2700 m/s), which gives TNT much more shattering effect than AN.

  15. turcopolier says:

    Yes, desirable, but considering the collective neurosis that is Lebanon, probably not possible.

  16. turcopolier says:

    Absolute bullshit! I know lots of people in the Lebanese diaspora in S. America, Central America and Africa and they are the mainsprings of corruption of government contracting and bribery there. As for all that crap about the various “foreign” actors, you must be Lebanese. They are a people who specialize in the French idiom “c’est pas ma faute!”

  17. Leith says:

    I take you at your word about corruption in Latin America and Africa. I know nothing of those communities and I never implied the Lebanese there were not corrupt. I was only speaking of Lebanese-Americans, i.e. US citizens, when I said they have “done well in politics and performed well in government”. I do not know of any hint of bribery or gov contracting corruption by Governors Sununu & Atiyeh, or by Senators Abdnor & Abourezk. But maybe you do?
    Crist in Florida had some fundraising controversies, but he is mostly Irish/Welsh/Swiss/Greek with just a few drops of Lebanese blood. LaHood was accused of pork barrel earmarking like hundreds of other congress critters, but he is only half Lebanese, his mother was of German ancestry.
    Regretfully I cannot claim any Lebanese bloodstream in my family. But I love their food. Their women are gorgeous. Their people are smart: their ancestors devised the first alphabet; and their ancestral traders fleeced the ancient Greeks and Hebrews in every deal. As for Lebanon itself it is American as apple pie to root for the little guy.
    As far as the French idiom “c’est pas ma faute!”, it is very similar to an alibi sung in recent years by American politicians of both major parties.

  18. Mike46 says:

    A Desperate Lebanon May Find a Savior in Beijing.
    Fifteen countries have pledged $300 million so far with the estimated rebuild cost to be $5 to $15 billion.
    Is it worth it to the Chinese?

  19. Artemesia says:

    Commenter “Mario Partisan” researched the size of a warehouse such as the one where the AN was stored; calculated the total volume of the sacks of AN; then fitted the sacks volume into the warehouse. https://www.unz.com/pescobar/who-profits-from-the-beirut-blast/#comment-4090231
    He calculated:

    “if we assume that warehouse #12 has a 200 square meter area and multiply by 6.5 meters, we get 1,300 cubic meters, which is not large enough to store 2,750 tonnes (1,600 cubic meters) of AN.. . .
    Another thing to consider is that maybe some warehouses are larger than 200 square meters. At 6.5 meters high, 1600 cubic meters requires a floor space of 250 square meters.
    So, I think we can say that 2,750 tonnes of AN would occupy the entire volume of the largest warehouses. The problem that I see with the official accident story is that it posits a large adjacent store of fireworks/munitions in order to provide the detonation necessary to explode stable AN. . . .

    Mario Partisan concluded:

    But, if there was a large store of munitions in the same warehouse, then the space to hold the AN is further reduced. In short, it seems that the math of the official story might not add up.”

  20. Barbara Ann says:

    The author is evidently not a quantity surveyor. That claim is debunked in the comments to the Unz article. Look at the photos of the warehouse yourself, on Google or Bing maps, for instance. The building was approx 120m long and 30m wide by my estimates. Lord knows where the author got his floor area estimate of 200 square meters from – perhaps an entirely different area of the port? It is a shame such a-mathematical nonsense made it past the Unz editorial process.

  21. Mario Partisan says:

    Artemesia and Barbara Ann,
    I just happened to stumble across this. My apologies for the poorly thought out post over at unz. I was embarrassed as I’m not actually that innumerate. The dimensions that I used were obtained from a page at the Port of Beirut website which describes the dimensions of warehouses in the Free Zone. The explosion did not occur in the Free Zone, and yes, warehouse 12 is way too large to have a 200 sq meter floor space. I should have checked and used my head, but I erred on account of excessive eagerness. I owned my error over there too.
    But, BA, the editorial process at unz is fine. It is not the responsibility of Mr. Unz or any moderator to prevent commenters from making asses of themselves. That is the responsibility of the asses and an open debate forum with minimal editorial intervention allows errors to be corrected, as mine was at unz and as you did here for Artemesia. Having one’s mistakes pointed out encourages commenters to be more careful the next time. That’s why we like Freeze Peach.

  22. Barbara Ann says:

    Mario Partisan
    I was wrong to slight Unz’ editorial process, I misread Artemesia’s comment above as relating to a post by one of Ron’s authors (Pepe in this case) not a comment by an unmoderated contributor. My own eye is hardly free of planks on that score and I would far rather debunk nonsense than have no opportunity to read it in the first place.

  23. turcopolier says:

    IMO the tooth fairy magically deposited the AN in Beirut because he hates the wonderful Lebanese people.

  24. TheUnready says:

    Did you watch the clip? No tooth fairy. Your old friend Bandar bin Sultan parked it in Lebanon for onward shipment to the Syrian rebels. The ruse was uncovered very early and the AN has sat in the port ever since.

  25. turcopolier says:

    So, Bandar is my “old friend?” That is news to me. Friendship had nothing to do with our acquaintance. As for the theory you are pushing every nut in the ME has a theory about every event and they usually are just fantasy.

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