- Lebanon: At least 73 dead and 3,700 injured in two violent explosions in the port of Beirut
Lebanese Prime Minister Hasan Diab has said that the explosions, which left at least 73 dead and 3,700 injured - including his wife and daughter - were caused by the detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that were stored in the port. from the Lebanese capital.
"It is inadmissible that a shipment of ammonium nitrate, estimated at 2,750 tons, has been in a warehouse for six years, without preventive measures. This is unacceptable and we cannot remain silent on this issue, " the prime minister declared in the meeting of the Higher Defense Council, according to statements quoted by a spokesman at a press conference. Diab promised that those responsible should be "held accountable" and asked for help from "friendly countries". The United States, where its president believes that a "terrible attack" , has announced that it is "ready to provide assistance" to the Lebanese people, while France announced the sending of aid.
However, according to the Prime Minister's words, everything points to the fact that the warehouse where this fertilizer was located was the origin of the explosions that have resulted in dozens of deaths and thousands of injuries. Images released by local media and witnesses showed how a first detonation engulfed in fire occurs , followed by a second that causes a white mushroom and a large blast wave. "It looks like a nuclear bomb," a witness told ELMUNDO.es.
The ammonium nitrate is the basis of many nitrogen fertilizers , and caused several industrial accidents or attacks like the one committed in 1995 in Oklahoma City, United States, for a white supremacist. Ammonium nitrate is a white, odorless salt that is used as the base for many granular nitrogenous fertilizers, aminonitrates , highly soluble in water and purchased by farmers in large bags. They are not combustible products, but oxidants. Its detonation is possible in medium and high doses and in the presence of combustible substances or intense sources of heat.
Local media released or throughout the afternoon on Tuesday images of wrecked ships, damaged buildings and shops and people lying on the ground bloody, under the rubble. The deflagrations could be heard tens of kilometers from the capital, according to what this newspaper could know.
The port area, which concentrates luxury hotels, leisure areas, and office buildings and shops, was flooded with ambulances, Civil Defense teams, firefighters and security forces as numerous wounded people walked the streets heading to hospitals, according to witnesses. Health centers continue to try to cope with the large number of victims as best they can . Among the wounded are entire families and minors. The images distinguish people screaming from the impact of the explosions, which have smashed windows and damaged buildings within a radius of at least seven kilometers.
The storage of ammonium nitrate must follow strict regulations to isolate it from flammable liquids (gasoline, oils, etc.), corrosive liquids, flammable solids or substances that emit heat, among other prohibited substances, according to a technical sheet from the French Ministry of Agriculture.
Ammonium nitrate has been the protagonist of numerous tragedies - accidental and criminal - in the world.
One of his first accidents left 561 dead in 1921 at a BASF plant in Oppau, Germany.
In France, some 300 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in bulk in a hangar at the AZF chemical plant in Toulouse exploded on September 21, 2001, leaving 31 dead. The deflagration was heard 80 km away.
Also in the United States, a terrible explosion at the West Fertilizer plant , in Texas, killed 15 people in 2013, after an ammonium nitrate deposit exploded due to arson. The researchers questioned the absence of storage standards for the product at the Texas plant.
Ammonium nitrate can also be used to make explosives . On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a two-ton fertilizer bomb in front of a federal building in Oklahoma City, leaving 168 dead and nearly 700 wounded.
Lebanon is hit by the worst economic crisis since the civil war (1975-1990), bankrupt due to the depreciation of its currency. The population tries to overcome the effects of hyperinflation, the spectacular rise in the price of food, the mass layoffs and the closings of the banks on a day-to-day basis, amid a feeling of social rage that has not stopped growing since in October a mass protest movement broke out only mitigated by the coronavirus pandemic.
No injuries among the Spanish military
The Ministry of Defense has reported, through the Operations Command, that there are no Spanish military among the wounded. It should be remembered that in Lebanon there is an international United Nations mission of which Spain is a part, which since 2012 has had some 600 soldiers permanently deployed.
"There is information of those affected among UNIFIL members from other countries. According to the first data, 12 serious injuries and between 30 and 40 minor injuries were reported, one of them Italian and the rest of Bangladesh belonging to the mission's Maritime Task Force" Defense explains.
And he adds: "There have been no injuries among Spanish military personnel, both from the contingent integrated into the United Nations Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and from the Embassy personnel."
Lastly, Defense explained that the Spanish military are preparing a convoy with sanitary means to travel to Beirut if their support is requested.
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