Beirut, Lebanon Explosion: An Inside Look

Dion Nissenbaum, a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, was at home with his 4-year-old daughter when the explosions hit. His story recounts the devastation even at half a mile away. They both suffered cuts, and his daughter is still in the hospital.

He was taking his daughter to the bathroom when he heard the initial explosion.

"It sounded a lot like a car bomb that I've heard in reporting in places like Kabul, and even Istanbul. I went out into the living room to call my colleagues to find out what it was. And my daughter came running out naked into the living room to say, 'What was that?' "And then the blast, the second blast, the much more powerful blast, just blew in the glass, and the doors and everything in our house. And I just had to dive to the ground and use my body to shield her from as much of the glass and wood that was just ... blew into our house and then blew back the other way, somehow. It blew through our house and then like, ricocheted off the building behind us and tossed my computer and our sofa out into the front of the street. It was unlike any blast I've ever experienced."

Before the explosion, Lebanon already had more than its share of issues, beginning with an extended economic crisis has thrown its currency into a free fall. This was made worse by COVID-19. Protesters have been upset at the difficulty obtaining basic necessities and frustrated with the political corruptness that affects it all. Tuesday's explosion will be sure to fuel accusations that Lebanon's government is too corrupt or incompetent to serve its people. The government has, however, set up an investigation to determine who should be held responsible for the decisions that led to storing tons of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse without taking safety/preventive measures to prevent Tuesday's catastrophe.

Ammonium nitrate is the same raw material Timothy McVeigh used to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. In that deadly attack, 2 tons of the fertilizer were used. The Beirut port was holding an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate.

"Facts about this dangerous warehouse" have been known for at least 6 years, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said.

The dark question over the investigation into the stockpile of ammonium nitrate: Why was it there? The chemical is widely used in fertilizers but also to make explosives and barrel bombs. An investigation is underway to find the exact trigger for the explosion. Lebanon's Supreme Defense Council said those responsible will face the "maximum punishment" possible.


Eyeconic Writer: Erica Debato

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