New Satellite Image Shows Beirut Explosion Devastation
Just after 6pm local time on August 4 a massive blast devastated a large part of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. It is reported to have killed at least 100 people, with more than 4,000 injured. As the smoke clears commercial satellites have passed overhead, providing a sobering perspective.
Aurora Intel, which tracks security topics in the Middle East, shared fresh images which show the impact. The before-and-after gif shows how many of the warehouses along the port area have been leveled. The imagery, taken today, comes from Planet’s satellites.
The explosion was massive. Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, has said that it was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate which was stored in a warehouse on the quayside. Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer used in agriculture. But it is highly dangerous and is a common ingredient in improvised explosives.
The storage is consistent with reports of a cargo vessel, MV Rhosus, which was seized on September 23 2013. She had 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate aboard. Information from ShipArrested.com, which tracks port seizures, says that “Owing to the risks associated with retaining the Ammonium Nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port’s warehouses.” The reason for the seizure are unclear from that source however.
2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate is equivalent to hundreds of tons of TNT, the benchmark in explosive force. This places the blast well below the level of nuclear weapons, but still colossal. And the terrible impact on the buildings, and lives, of the city is clear.
The crater left actually changes the shoreline in the port, as seen in this radar satellite imagery using the Sentinel 1 satellite: