“Like the Atomic Bomb Blasts at Hiroshima”: Apocalyptic Scenes from Beirut After the Blast that Killed Hundreds


“Like the Atomic Bomb Blasts at Hiroshima”: Apocalyptic Scenes from Beirut After the Blast that Killed Hundreds

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

An explosion of unprecedented scale rocked Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, on Tuesday killing at least 100 people, wounding more than four thousand, and causing mass destruction of property and building, reports BBC. Videos taken of the explosion in Beirut show its destructive fury. The explosion triggered a shockwave that flattened Beirut’s port and broke windows across the city. Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, has called it a “disaster in every sense of the word”.

The cause of the explosion was alleged to have been a massive load of ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertiliser. According to reports, 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which is also sometimes used in assembling bombs, had been confiscated by authorities six years earlier and stored in a portside warehouse. At a defence council meeting, Lebanon’s PM was quoted by his spokesman as saying, “It is unacceptable that a shipment of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate has been present for six years in a warehouse, without taking preventive measures.”

Lebanon’s national defence council has declared the capital a disaster zone in the aftermath of the explosion. The force of the explosion was so great that it was felt as far away as Nicosia, in Cyprus, 240 kilometres away from Beirut, where seismologists registered a 3.3 reading on the Richter scale, the equivalent of a small earthquake.

Due to the intensity of the blast, conspiracy theories have emerged that the explosion was a nuclear bomb. However, the Lebanese government has asserted that the explosion was caused by the stockpiled ammonium nitrate. The visuals of the aftermath are truly heartbreaking.

At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic was already placing strain on the country’s hospitals, the disaster in Beirut has necessitated emergency medical aid for thousands of residents. The PM has announced that those responsible for the lapses that led to the disaster will be held accountable.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud told CNN the scene reminded him of the atomic bomb blasts at the end of the Second World War in “Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

“In my life I haven’t seen destruction on this scale,” he said. “This is a national catastrophe.”

As scenes of devastation from Beirut continue to hit social media, the extent of the damage is still being calculated. Looks like 2020 is not going to give us any respite.