No jokes with saltpeter: a story of explosions similar to Beirut
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No jokes with saltpeter: a story of explosions similar to Beirut

5 August , 23:20Incidents
Almost 100 years ago in Bavaria, the explosion of ammonium nitrate was several times more powerful than the current one.

As Novye Izvestia has already reported, a powerful explosion occurred in the port of the Lebanese capital of Beirut the night before, which claimed the lives of about 100 people (their number will undoubtedly grow much) and damaged half of the city's buildings. The capital's hospitals are overwhelmed with victims - more than 4 thousand people were injured. The official cause of the explosion was the improper storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in the port for six years. It is also reported that the vessel from which the saltpeter was confiscated, which caused the explosion, belonged to a native of Khabarovsk, Igor Grechushkin, who lives in Cyprus. In 2013, it transported saltpeter from Batumi to Mozambique, but due to malfunctions on board, it was forced to moor in Beirut, and the local authorities forbade it to move on. In Lebanon, mourning for the dead has been declared.

Network analyst Dmitry Milin has collected and posted on his blog posts about similar incidents over the past 100 years:

1. An explosion at a chemical plant in Oppau - a severe man-made disaster that occurred on September 21, 1921 at a chemical plant of the BASF company, located near the town of Oppau, the Palatinate region, which was at that time part of Bavaria (now part of the city of Ludwigshafen am Rhein , Rhineland-Palatinate), and caused massive casualties and significant destruction.

The immediate cause of the tragedy was a detonation when explosives were used to crush caked stocks of ammonium sulfate and nitrate, stockpiled in anticipation of a seasonal peak in sales of agricultural fertilizers in a nearby mined clay quarry.

Exploded 12 thousand tons of a mixture of sulfate and ammonium nitrate, the energy of the explosion was estimated at 4-5 kilotons of TNT equivalent.

In Oppau, out of 1000 buildings, 800 were destroyed, 7,500 people were left homeless. The explosion destroyed the nearby villages of Frankenthal and Edigheim. Trains standing at nearby stations were thrown off the tracks, and within a radius of 70 km, including the cities of Ludwigshafen and Mannheim, glass was shattered in all buildings, the sound of an explosion was heard even in Munich, located 300 km away.

After the explosion, which left a funnel measuring 90 x 125 m and a depth of 20 m, a strong fire started, which was extinguished only a few days later. 561 people became victims of the disaster, over one and a half thousand were injured and burned. (on the picture).

2. Explosion in Texas City - a man-made disaster that happened on April 16, 1947 in the port of Texas City, USA. A fire aboard the French ship Grandcamp detonated about 2,100 tons of ammonium nitrate (ammonium nitrate), causing a chain reaction in the form of fires and explosions on nearby ships and oil storage facilities. The explosion killed at least 581 people (including all but one of the Texas City fire department), injured more than 5,000, and ended up in hospitals in 1,784. However, the death toll has increased due to a severe fire in the city and the subsequent two explosions of ships that had a similar cargo on board. In total, as a result of this tragedy, more than one and a half thousand people died, and several hundred more went missing. The port and a significant part of the city were completely destroyed, many businesses were razed to the ground or burned down.

3. An explosion at the AZF plant (fr. AZote Fertilisants) - a man-made disaster that occurred on September 21, 2001 at a plant in Toulouse. For an unknown reason, a hangar with 300 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded, killing about 30 people, injuring thousands of people, and damaging thousands of buildings and structures in the city.

At 10 hours 17 minutes 56 seconds on September 21, 2001, hangar 221 of the AZF chemical plant in the south of Toulouse exploded. Detonation of 300 tons of ammonium nitrate led to the formation of a crater on the site of the hangar about 5 meters deep and up to 50 meters in diameter. Structures on the territory of AZF and neighboring enterprises were damaged (the plant was located in an industrial area). Many residential buildings (27,000 apartments) and social infrastructure were also damaged. Material damage was estimated at 1.5 billion euros. According to various sources, from 29 to 31 people died, of which 21-22 at the AZF plant. Two and a half thousand people were seriously injured, and about eight thousand were lightly injured.

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