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Beirut explosion: What’s ammonium nitrate and why is it being blamed for the tragedy?

This was the most effective blast ever seen from the capital, which had been on the front of this country’s 1975-1990 civil war, and it has suffered conflicts with neighboring Israel, in addition to bombings and terror attacks.

Lebanon’s government has stated that the explosion was a result of the detonation of ammonium nitrate kept in the town’s port. Experts believe this occurred after a fire engulfed fireworks, which were stored in the region.

The tragedy has raised concerns over why such substance was retained for such a long time, in such a dangerous manner, therefore near heavily populated places. The material has been the reason for numerous industrial explosions previously.

What’s ammonium nitrate?
Ammonium nitrate is an odorless crystalline chemical commonly used as a fertilizer. In the agricultural industry, farmers purchase it in bulk because its program allows rainwater — that is essential to plant development — to be released to the soil.

It isn’t readily combustible: the chemical doesn’t detonate by itself but it can burst if it comes in contact with a different ignition source, or even if it comes under extreme heat. Called an oxidizer, it intensifies gas and may empower other substances to spark more easily.

Trevor Lawrence, an expert on explosives and ammunition, advised Euronews that”ammonium nitrate is a somewhat stable material because it is, however, if it becomes contaminated, if it is not kept in dry and dry conditions, it becomes more volatile”

“Critically, if it is exposed to heat, and it is restricted in massive quantities it begins to decompose and it decomposes producing its heat. So you get a moving response, it becomes warmer and warmer, decomposes more and much more. And when it is combined, this may transition into a detonation because we saw yesterday,” Lawrence explained.

There are often strict rules concerning where and how ammonium nitrate could be saved: for example, from gas and other sources of warmth, and away from residential areas.

“It needs to be kept dry, so it needs to be maintained cool and seriously must be kept in a place where it is not likely to be exposed to any heat or fire,” Lawrence told Euronews.

Many nations in the European Union need calcium carbonate to be inserted into ammonium nitrate to make calcium ammonium nitrate, which can be safer.

What other big explosions get the material caused?
The substance was also utilized in a burst at a fertilizer plant in the USA state of Texas in 2013, murdering 15, the police judged for a deliberate assault.

Also in Texas, 581 individuals were murdered in an industrial crisis at Texas City in 1947. A fire took hold for a consignment of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that has been unloaded in the town’s port. The subsequent explosion was allegedly discovered over 200 kilometers off and put off a chain reaction that destroyed boats, little airplanes flying overhead, and triggered a tidal wave.

Later, regulations regulating the use of this material had been tightened significantly.

The assault from June 1996 caused enormous damage to Manchester city center. Prior warnings supposed nobody had been murdered but some 200 were hurt.

Lawrence told Euronews it frequently comes down to inadequate storage.

“It is not properly tracked, it is not kept under appropriate conditions, then finally there is a there is a very powerful risk this kind of event will take place,” he explained.

Why was ammonium nitrate kept in a populated region of Beirut?
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab stated 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate was kept in a warehouse in the port as it had been confiscated from a freight boat in 2014.

“because of the dangers related to keeping the Ammonium Nitrate aboard the boat, the port police discharged the cargo on the port’s warehouses. The vessel and freight stay thus far in port anticipating auctioning and/or suitable disposal,” the report concludes.

Ahead of Tuesday’s blast, Lebanon was on the edge of collapse. Amid near financial collapse and soaring unemployment which have attracted mass protests lately, many blame government incompetence and corruption.

The prime minister has pledged that”those responsible will cover”, after Tuesday’s crisis.