“They killed Beirut yesterday” Saad Hariri


"The Beirut blast, based on the crater and glass windows being blown out a distance away, exploded with the force equivalent to detonating at least 2.2 kilotons of TNT, said Sim Tack, an analyst and weapons expert at the Texas-based private intelligence firm Stratfor.

What initially started the fire at the port remains unclear. Beirut was sunny before Tuesday's explosion, with a daily high of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit)." abc11.com

"Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited the grave of his late father who was killed in a suicide truck bomb in February 2005, telling reporters, "They killed Beirut yesterday." After he left, protesters chanted slogans against Lebanon's entire political class, including Hariri, and fistfights broke out between his supporters and protesters. Hariri resigned in October amid nationwide protests.

The government sought to reassure fears over the food supply, a top concern in a country where some 80% of the wheat is imported and which is also hosting over 1 million Syrians displaced by civil war there.

Drone footage shot Wednesday by The Associated Press showed the blast tore open the silo building, dumping its contents into the debris and earth thrown up by the blast. Estimates suggest some 85% of the country's grain was stored at the now-wrecked silos."  abc11.com


It appears that this monstrous event was caused by a Lebanese government decision in 2014 to store several thousand tons of the fertilizer Ammonium Nitrate in a warehouse in the port of Beirut.

This material had been confiscated by the Lebanese government when found aboard a ship impounded in the port.  It was thought in 2014 that the fertilizer was too dangerous to be left in the hold of the ship.

You may remember that Ammonium Nitrate soaked with motor oil was the explosive used by McVeigh to destroy the federal building in Oklahoma City.  The amount of explosive used by him was contained in a rented panel van.   The amount of explosive used in that attack was relatively miniscule compared to the amount of Ammonium Nitrate that blew up in Beirut.

It seems that another warehouse, close by in the port area contained a large quantity of fireworks, rockets, etc.  Fireworks are popular in Beirut and are used in wedding ceremonies and the like.  I remember several such events in the big ballroom underneath the Phoenicia Hotel.  In each case there were several hundred people in the room.  Massed fireworks were set off in this cavernous space as part of the celebration.  This worried me.  I feared that the building would catch fire but none of the Lebanese present seemed concerned.

In yesterday's disaster the fireworks somehow caught fire. That fire and the flight of some of the fireworks into the fertilizer warehouse set off the Ammonium Nitrate.  Exploding fireworks are visible in film of the fire just before the explosion.  Because of my service in US Army Special Forces, I know a bit about explosives.  The fact that the Ammonium Nitrate was contained in a substantial building increased the violence of the blast because the building "tamped" the blast allowing it to increase radically in pressure before the building disintegrated.

Accident or attack?  Who knows?  The fire in the fireworks warehouse could have been deliberately set or it may have been an accident caused by some ass smoking in the building or some such thing.

In any event, the Lebanese government port authority decision to allow all that Ammonium Nitrate to be stored in the port for six years is illustrative of the kind of ineptitude that has marked  Lebanese government for many years.   As you all know, the Lebanese economy was in free fall and in collapse BEFORE yesterday's horror.

Viewers of drone photography of the point of explosion write that the crater is several hundred feet in diameter and that it looks as though "the sea has taken a big bite out of the port."  

There is no money available to re-build downtown Beirut and the port.  

I fear that Saad Hariri is correct.  pl


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36 Responses to “They killed Beirut yesterday” Saad Hariri

  1. Leith says:

    McVeigh added nitromethane to his fertilizer bomb. That turned it into ANNM with double the detonation velocity of ammonium nitrate alone and 1.5 times the detonation velocity of ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil). The increased det velocity gave it much more brisance (i.e a shattering capability to break concrete and cut steel). If that had been used in Beirut then IMO the city would have been completely flattened.
    They may have to tear down all or most of the buildings in the central district. With the port devastated, I hope the airport is functional. They are going to need a Berlin Airlift for medical supplies and foodstuffs.

  2. The Beaver says:

    The fire in the fireworks warehouse could have been deliberately set or it may have been an accident caused by some ass smoking in the building or some such thing.
    It is welding
    “Some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate unloaded from a disabled vessel in 2014 had been stored in a port warehouse. Then yesterday, a welding accident ignited nearby fireworks — which caused the ammonium nitrate to explode.”

  3. jon stanley says:

    the reporter is pronouncing it Beiru…dropping the t. Probably a communications major with a minor in feminist studies.

  4. Barbara Ann says:

    “In honor of “Valentine’s Day”, we got a “spectacular pyrotechnics show” at the Port of Beirut.”
    Moshe Feiglin, a former Likud MK and head of the Zehut party, posted this on his Facebook page a few hours ago, in reference to the Beirut blast. Facebook, with algorithmic irony have censored the attached photo of the blast wave with “This photo may contain cruel or insensitive content.”
    I try to avoid wishing people harm, but in Moshe’s case I may make an exception.

  5. W.J. Wilkening says:

    In September 2018 PM Netanyahu spoke to the UN Assembly about missile factories being concealed in the heart of Beirut and using its citizens as human shields. The photo of the sites he held up during his speech is remarkably close to the area that exploded yesterday. Is it at all possible that this was actually what blew up and not a confiscated shipment of ammonium nitrate?

  6. John Minnerath says:

    So far this has been called an Ammonium Nitrate explosion. There have been a few accidental detonations with it before. but as far as I know, it had all been prepared as ANFO. The AN mixed with the correct proportion of FO (fuel oil, usually diesel)
    I’ve read there were 2 explosions close together.
    There were a number of silos filled with grain, were there also grain mills in close proximity? A ready made dust initiator.
    Then there was a large amount of fireworks stored nearby.
    ANFO alone is very stable and needs a high powered detonator to set it off, it takes something at least the power of 40% dynamite. Large fireworks, especially the bigger commercial types could do it.
    Then there is the possibility if a grain dust explosion thrown in.
    It’s going to take some serious study to figure out just what initiated this huge explosion.
    Everything needed was there for an incredible act of sabotage.

  7. Leith says:

    Mike 46 –
    Or the BASF fertilizer plant explosion at Oppau in 1921. Killed 560 and injured thousands.

  8. John Minnerath says:

    In the Texas City explosion the Ammonium Nitrate had been prilled with a combination of Resin, petrolatum, and paraffin wax to stop caking. Which served as the fuel component.
    On big blasting jobs in the Alaska arctic we would bring in ANFO by the barge load. We sometimes had tons left at the end of the job and it cost too much to get it out. So, we burned it, by front end loader bucket fulls. Stuff burns with intensity, but it won’t detonate from the fire.

  9. turcopolier says:

    john minnerath
    What was your MOS in SF?

  10. turcopolier says:

    Seems to me that if the AN took a direct hit from an exploding firework it might well go boom!

  11. John Minnerath says:

    Yes, it’s possible, especially given the devils brew that was going on. Black powder can be used to detonate ANFO if everything is set up right.

  12. Leith says:

    John M –
    33 recorded accidental ammonium nitrate explosions prior to Beirut. Only three were known to involve ANFO: Traskwood Arkansas 1960, Kansas City Missouri 1988, and Monclova Mexico 2007.

  13. j. casey says:

    Nasrallah spoken yet? Will this change the ROE?

  14. Mike46 says:

    From a story in AlJazeera:
    “he ship’s dangerous cargo was then offloaded and placed in Hangar 12 of Beirut port, a large grey structure facing the country’s main north-south highway at the main entrance to the capital.
    Months later, on June 27, 2014, then-director of Lebanese Customs Shafik Merhi sent a letter addressed to an unnamed “Urgent Matters judge”, asking for a solution to the cargo, according to documents shared online.
    Customs officials sent at least five more letters over the next three years – on December 5, 2014, May 6, 2015, May 20, 2016, October 13, 2016, and October 27, 2017 – asking for guidance and warning that the material posed a danger, Badri Daher, the current director of Lebanese Customs, told broadcaster LBCI on Wednesday.
    They proposed three options: Export the ammonium nitrate, hand it over to the Lebanese Army, or sell it to the privately-owned Lebanese Explosives Company.
    One letter sent in 2016 noted there had been “no reply” from judges to previous requests.
    It pleaded: “In view of the serious danger of keeping these goods in the hangar in unsuitable climatic conditions, we reaffirm our request to please request the marine agency to re-export these goods immediately to preserve the safety of the port and those working in it, or to look into agreeing to sell this amount” to the Lebanese Explosives Company.
    Again, there was no reply.
    A year later, Daher, the new Lebanese Customs director, wrote to a judge once again.
    In the October 27, 2017, letter, Daher urged the judge to come to a decision on the matter in view of “the danger … of leaving these goods in the place they are, and to those working there”.
    Nearly three years later, the ammonium nitrate was still in the hangar.

  15. Leith says:

    ImageSatInternational has posted a pic showing a two km radius radius with most severe damage.
    But at ten km south the airport terminal building took some damage. Runway is fine. Qatari C-17 should have already landed there with two 500-bed field hospitals.
    And ten km NE at the US Embassy doors were blown open and windows rattled but they are open for business.


    Airlift is already taking place:
    to name a few.

  17. The Beirut Airport appears to have been shielded from the blast by the city of Beirut if the blast even reached that far south. It’s functional. In addition, Tripoli also has port facilities. Jouneih, also north of Beirut, could be pressed into service for smaller cargo vessels or ferry traffic. We always entered and exited Lebanon through Jouneih rather than through Beirut Airport in the 80s.
    The grain silos appear to have suffered from the blast rather than contributing to it. The silos may have shielded the area out of the blast from some of its effects. My money is on an industrial accident involving welding, fireworks and the ammonium nitrate. Lord knows what conditions that was stored under over the years and what else may have been stored there..

  18. turcopolier says:

    Scarlett O’Hara
    It is more likely to be incompetence piled high upon ineptitude.

  19. turcopolier says:

    That would be an engineer/demo type? I was prefix “3” qualified with that hung on either an infantry officer MOS or that of a clan collection MI guy depending on when we are talking about.

  20. turcopolier says:

    That airport has bad associations for me. I was on a flight that landed there in the middle of the night in a massive electrical storm. Why go to Disneyland when you can do that?

  21. Polish Janitor says:

    Very sad day for the people of Lebanon. Just when you thought things could not get any worse for Lebanon, and boom this happens…
    In general, the dire situation in Lebanon is the result of mismanagement/corruption, the division of power in the parliament along very shaky ethnic and religious lines which is a recipe for disaster, and more importantly the U.S. sanctions imposed on the people with the ultimate aim of driving Hezbollah out of Lebanon which is a cruel form of collective punishment.
    The explosion yesterday happened at the main port in northwestern Beirut, demographically the district is mostly Sunni and the most wealthiest and upscale, hence the location for foreign embassies and consulates and the majority of offices and service sector, while the Southern Shi’ite with 700-800k is mostly poor and working class and supporters of Hezb. The Druze dwell the northern and hilly parts and the Christians/Armenians in the east.
    The port is (and has always been) under the control of Sunnis and NOT the Hezb, and there has not been any report of ammunition being stored at the port. This is clear as daylight, the ammunition caches reach the country by land not the sea, hence Israelis’ constant bombing of caravans in Syria and Iraq en route Lebanon.
    But there has been one ‘anomaly’ at the site of the explosion. According to Elijah Magnier, a veteran Middle-Eastern journalist based in Lebanon, there were traces of some kind of “poisonous substance” at the site of the explosion according to one port authority (1) (link below). He did not clarified what substance and I don’t think he was referring to NO2. Anyhow, the incident is now being investigated by the Lebanese Army intelligence and will probably come out tomorrow or the day after.
    Lastly, Sa’ad Hariri’s condemnation of the government for the incident which is really aimed at Hezb is not only dishonest but very opportunistic during this time of national mourning. Those who follow ME politics, especially Lebanon’s know the reality on the ground. If it were not for Hez’s detterence, Israel would have bombed/invaded the country many times.
    Never mind the fact that it was during Hariri’s tenure as PM that the whole ponzi-scheme ran by the Lebanese banks took off, the political/economic/bureaucratic patronage matured and then last year in the midst of street protests and national crisis under the direction of ‘KSA he suddenly resigned in order to bring the whole government down and everyone with him for certain political goals. These people are experts in crating failed states.
    My question to all is that, given the current heartbreaking situation in Lebanon with close of 300k refugees, death toll of 150 and counting, $30B in damage, and shortage of food (because of the destruction of grain silos at the port) and supplies, will the United States lift its devastating sanctions against Lebanon now?
    1. https://twitter.com/ejmalrai/status/1291039433844760583
    2. Btw, the incident occurred shortly after this: https://www.israelhayom.com/2020/08/04/lebanon-calls-israeli-threats-a-declaration-of-war/

  22. pl,
    I’ve never been to that airport. We came in from Cyprus by CH-47 to Jouneih and then trucked into the mountains. I only saw the airport looking down from those mountains. The worst flight I ever had was from Albany to NYC enroute to Germany with my family. It was an electrical storm as well. I thought the wings were going to come off. There were three women going into hysterics. SWMBO and my sons were fine, but just as worried as I was.

  23. John Minnerath says:

    121 was the old Army MOS for Combat Engineer, Since at my time SF had no MOS numbers of their own us Demo guys were given 121. Guess they figured it was the only one that fit. Most of the senior NCO’s were WWII and Korea and those who had been real Combat Engineer’s were a bit pissed that us guys trained in only one part of the job were given that MOS. The “2” was for additional level of training, I remember when I got the 2 added I got a slight bump in pay.
    The “3” came later. The “7” for Airborne was changed to 3. Some guys got it some didn’t and not much about what it meant was forthcoming. When I asked an officer friend about it, he laughed and said I didn’t have a high enough security clearance to be told anything.
    I was on a standby list and required to notify DA within 48 hours of any change in my address. Suddenly, out of the blue, about 10 years after I got out, I got a letter from DA telling me I no longer had to keep them advised of where I was. And that was it.
    In the 70’s a few friends were contacted and asked if they would voluntarily go back on active duty. By that time we had families, jobs, etc. and no one I knew went back in.

  24. Markopasha says:

    The worst is yet to come. Those silos were the main national grain storage elevator. Looks like one side was taken out, grain spoiled. Not sure if the grain elevator is even operational on the other side, let alone if the structure is stable. Without drastic action, we could see mass starvation.
    It was always an old “agreement” in Lebanon by all sides that you don’t touch those silos. I think the Israelis may have accidentally bombed it once, but that’s about it. This could result in a catastrophe.

  25. Babak makkinejad says:

    Polish Janitor
    Nah, it is due to the culture of Lebanon, itself vestigial from Ottoman times.
    Greeces or Malta are not much different.

  26. leith says:

    Polish Janitor –
    The US Embassy in Beirut has also sent out an alert that there are reports of toxic gases released in the explosion.
    Makes sense because when ammonium nitrate is heated and decomposes it can give off Nitric Acid or Ammonia or both.

  27. J says:

    I mourn for the Lebanese, and Lebanon.

  28. Extra says:

    It seems that the Ammonium Nitrate in storage was not merely fertiliser, but a manufactured explosive- ‘Nitroprill’, widely used in Australia as a mining explosive.
    There’s probably an interesting story in how it found itself in the Black Sea port of Batumi.

  29. JohnH says:

    I spent a few days in Beirut about 10 years ago, including a visit to the port where a farmer’s market was being held. It was a modest affair, but I had a delightful lunch in one of the stalls. That area has probably been leveled.
    Beirut is one of the strangest places I’ve ever been. Its setting is spectacular, and the Corniche is magnificent. Outwardly, it exuded the air of a prosperous, confident, advanced city.
    But scratch below the surface, and it quickly gets creepy. The old city center, the Green Line dividing Muslim West Beirut and Christian East Beirut, had been totally destroyed in the civil war. Much of it had been rebuilt but never repopulated–a no man’s land filled with brand new buildings, some quite elegant.
    Along the waterfront, spectacular apartment towers had been built and apartments sold to Gulf princes. Upscale Western chains lined the streets around them. But no one was shopping. The stores were biding their time, waiting for some Gulf prince or other to parachute in with his entourage and go on a spending spree, something that happened every few years, depending on the prince.
    Further inland, the Place de l’Etoile, built originally by the French, had been painstakingly restored. It was teeming with security guards but few ordinary people, except for occasions such an elite wedding or some other showy event held in one of the beautifully restored churches or mosques.
    The old Beirut central commercial district, which had been located right next door, had become a vast parking lot, its only occupant a large tent housing a memorial to Rafiq Hariri, so that people would never forget his assassination, his sect’s victimization, and the implicit need for ‘justice’ or vengeance.
    On a hill above the central city was the ruins of the old Holiday Inn, whose Kuwaiti owner had vowed to restore only when it was safe. No one was taking bets on when that would be.
    Bottom line: Beirut at that time was several cities, each occupying its own distinct space. I stayed in West Beirut near the American University. It was a safe, pleasant and peaceful area with lots of good restaurants. I ventured to East Beirut to do some banking. But no one would take me to south Beirut, the Shi’a area, because it was too dangerous. The closest I got was the airport, which sits right next to the Shi’a area.
    While in Lebanon, I learned that you needed to mind how you said, “Hello.” I was accustomed to the Arabic, “Salaam aleikum,” which was most common in Morocco. But I learned that that was not proper form in the Cristian areas, where they looked askance when I greeted them this way. I learned to substitute, “Ahlan wa Sahlan,” which, until then, I had regarded as a less common equivalent with no sectarian overtones. Apparently some of the Christian population prefer to regard themselves as Phoenician, not Arab, and “Ahlan wa Sahlan” predates the Arabic.
    I had the good fortune to take a walking tour of Beirut with a guide who introduced us the the weirdness and dysfunctionality of Lebanese politics and society in general. All government functions have been distributed–permanently–by religious sect. (Thank you France!) To illustrate the absurdity, the guide claimed that the Finance Minister had to be a Jew, even though there were no Jews living in Lebanon then. I have not been able to verify that. But it still illustrates the absurdity of divvying up government tasks on a sectarian basis.
    And the fact that there seemed to be a different bank on every street corner seemed weird and made me wonder how they could support all those banks. (Turns out they couldn’t!)
    At the end my time in Beirut, the hotel found me transportation to Damascus with a couple working for the Church Of England. Syria was months away from its own civil war and was very interesting, peaceful and safe, though weird in its own way.
    My heart goes out to Beirutis, particularly since I don’t see how they climb out of the deep hole they find themselves in. The leadership is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent, the oil sheikhs are having money problems of their own, and Western institutions have shown that they’re generally not much help.
    But the good news is that Lebanon somehow managed to survive after the civil war, and they have no choice but to do it again.

  30. turcopolier says:

    “As salaam alaikum” is a specifically Muslim greeting from one Muslim to another wishing for God’s peace upon one of the faithful. I would suggest something like “Marhaba, keif al-haal?” (Hello, how are you?) when dealing with Christian Arabs or if you are not Muslim.


    Very good.
    A medieval Muslim city – with separate quarters for different sects.
    The whereabouts of 17,000 people are unknown since the end of the civil war there.
    It was known as the Paris of the Middle East before the civil war, largely because of the culture of the Christians there.

  32. turcopolier says:

    The francophile culture was also widespread among the Sunnis.

  33. turcopolier says:

    “A medieval Muslim city – with separate quarters for different sects.” Profoundly true. I would say that the same was true for all medieval cities, not just Muslim cities. In a way all of Lebanon is the same thing.


    Col. Lang:
    Some doctrinaire Sunni Muslims would take offense if greeted with “Al Salam Aleikom” by a non-Muslim – it is reserved for Muslims-only – they believe.
    I suppose they should be greeted with “Al Harb Aleikom”.

  35. turcopolier says:

    I always seek to avoid offending. That is one of the reasons why I yet live.

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