"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