Beirut is the capital of the largest city in Lebanon [ officially known as the Republic of Lebanon]. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, having been inhabited for more than 5,000 years. The first historical mention of Beirut is found in the Amarna letters from the New Kingdom of Egypt, which date to the 15th century BC.
On the afternoon of 4th August, a large fire broke out in Warehouse 12 at the Port of Beirut. The waterside Warehouse 12 was situated next to the grain silo and stored the ammonium nitrate that had been confiscated from MV Rhosus [a general cargo ship that was abandoned in beirut] alongside a “stash” of fireworks. Around 5:55 pm local time, a team of nine firefighters and one paramedic was dispatched to fight the fire. On arrival, the fire crew reported there was “something wrong” as the fire was huge and produced “a crazy sound.
Two massive explosions occurred at the port of the city of Beirut. Flattening much of the city’s port. the damaging building across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. The second explosion was so powerful that caused at least 220 deaths, approximately 7000 injuries, damaged property of about 10-15 billion dollars, and left an estimated 300,000 people homeless. A large part of the city has been devastated.
The first explosion, at about 6:09 pm, sent up a cloud of smoke followed by flashes of light from the stored fireworks; the second, occurring approximately 33 to 35 seconds later, was much more substantial. It rocked central Beirut and sent a red-orange cloud into the air, which was briefly surrounded by a white condensation cloud. The orange-red colour of the smoke was caused by nitrogen oxide, a byproduct of ammonium nitrate decomposition. The second explosion was felt in northern Israel and in Cyprus, 240 kilometers away.
A ship whose cargo allegedly blast belongs to a Russian businessman.
Entrepreneur from Khabarovsk turned out to be the owner of the Rhosus ship from which, allegedly, ammonium nitrate that possibly exploded in Beirut’s port was confiscated.
“In 2013, a bulk cargo ship sailing under the Moldovan flag was carrying hazardous cargo from Batumi to Mozambique and made an unplanned call to Beirut. There the motor vessel was detained by the port authorities due to the technical violations of operations. Simultaneously the crew consisting of Russian and Ukrainian citizens appealed to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) complaining that their employer, a Cyprian Teto Shipping company from the beginning of the contracts had not been paying their salary. In response to the ITF address, the ship’s owner, a businessman from Khabarovsk, promised to sell the ship and settle the debts.
According to the professional union, at first, the port authorities were not giving permission to unload the hazardous cargo. By March 2014, only the captain, chief, and third engineers, and the boatswain remained aboard. “Then the sailors said that in addition to the ship’s detention and the unpaid salary, the crew was also worried by the fact that the Rhosus carried particularly dangerous cargo – ammonium nitrate. Beirut’s port authorities refused either to unload the cargo or to move it to a different vessel.
In the summer of 2014, during the meeting with a consulate official, director general of land and maritime transport Abdel Hafiz El Kaissi reported that Lebanese authorities began to review the issue of repatriation of the Rhosus crew combined with the issue of the sale of the vessel and its explosive cargo.
“In the end, the court issued permission to unload ammonium nitrate but the port agent M. Baghdadi continued to postpone the repatriation of sailors flat out refusing to hire the local technical crew. After some time the locals unload the cargo was found, and the crew was allowed to return home. The staff of the Assol Sailors’ Support Foundation in Odessa assisted in repatriation, the statement noted.
To date, according to the information of the ITF inspector in Novorossiysk Olga Ananyina, the ship’s owner hasn’t paid the crew yet and the hazardous cargo was not disposed of properly over all this time.
Cause of the explosions:
The cause of the explosions was not immediately determined, although state media initially reported that they occurred at a fireworks warehouse, while others placed them at an oil storage or chemical storage facility. There were warehouses in the port that stored explosives and chemicals including nitrates, common components of fertilizers, and explosives. The General Director of General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, stated that ammonium nitrate confiscated from Rhosus had exploded. The 2,750 tonnes (3,030 short tons) of ammonium nitrate was the equivalent to around 1,155 tonnes of TNT.
Following the explosions, at least 220 people were confirmed dead and approximately 7000 people injured, with about 110 people still missing. Hundreds of foreigners from at least 22 countries were among the casualties.