Authorities are still investigating what exactly caused Tuesday’s deadly explosion in Beirut, but statements from key Lebanese officials have begun to focus on ammonium nitrate that was kept in a warehouse near the port.
At least 73 were killed and 3,700 injured following two enormous explosions that rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday. In a video of the blast, a huge plume of smoke was seen rising into the sky while distant buidings left shaken, sending the city into the panic mode.
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored for years in a Beirut portside warehouse had blown up, killing dozens of people and causing unprecedented damage to the Lebanese capital.
Ammonium nitrate, a compound of ammonia and nitrogen, is best known for being used in fertilizers and — because it’s incredibly volatile — bombs.
When combined with fuel oils, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used by the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups like the Taliban for improvised explosives.
It was also a component in the bomb behind the 1995 Oklahoma City attack.
In agriculture, ammonium nitrate fertiliser is applied in granule form and quickly dissolves under moisture, allowing nitrogen — which is key to plant growth — to be released into the soil.
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