New Satellite Image Shows Beirut Explosion Devastation

 In Egypt and the Levant, Local, Space

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:

Forbes: Aerospace & Defense source|articles

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