By Gabriel da Silva August 5, 2020
The Lebanese capital Beirut was rocked on Tuesday evening local time by an explosion that has killed at least 78 people and injured thousands more.
The country’s prime minister Hassan Diab said the blast was caused by around 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored near the city’s cargo port. Video footage appears to show a fire burning nearby before the blast.
Ammonium nitrate has the chemical formula NH₄NO₃. Produced as small porous pellets, or “prills”, it’s one of the world’s most widely used fertilisers.
It is also the main component in many types of mining explosives, where it’s mixed with fuel oil and detonated by an explosive charge.
For an industrial ammonium nitrate disaster to occur, a lot needs to go wrong. Tragically, this seems to have been the case in Beirut.
WHAT COULD HAVE CAUSED THE EXPLOSION?