Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK have calculated that the ammonium nitrate that exploded in the port of Beirut produced an explosion with an intensity equivalent to 0.50 to 1.12 kilotonnes of TNT.
Doctor belonging to a research group Sam Rigby tells the BBC that the explosion is among the ten most powerful in human history, not counting nuclear weapons or natural disasters. The analysis is published in Shock Waves.
Ammonium nitrate, typically used as a fertilizer, was about 2,750 tons. The blast killed 190 people and injured more than 6,000.
“The Beirut explosion is interesting because it’s practically completely on a kind of no-man’s land between the biggest conventional weapons and nuclear weapons,” Rigby commented.
By comparison, the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima was about 13-15 kilotonnes in size, while the GBU-43 / B MOAB, nicknamed Mother of All Bombs, one of the largest conventional weapons in the U.S. military, produces “only” 11 tons (0.011 kilotons). explosion.
The world’s largest explosion accident occurred in Halifax on the east coast of Canada in 1917 when a ship carrying explosive cargo collided with another ship. Its intensity was estimated at just under three kilotonnes. In Tianjin, China, on the other hand, there was an ammonium nitrate explosion in 2015, estimated at 0.25 kilotonnes.
“Beirut is guaranteed to be the strongest non-nuclear explosion in the 21st century,” says Bigby.
The shock wave was so strong that it destroyed the window panes even more than ten miles from the point of explosion. The amount of energy released was estimated to be in the order of one gigawatt hour. It corresponds to the energy needs of a hundred homes a year, according to researchers.
Researchers assessed the intensity of the explosion by examining several videos published on social media about the incident and mapping out the devastation. The initial estimate was about half a kilotonne higher than today. The error was due to the missing frames in the videos originally viewed by the researchers, which have disappeared either when they were downloaded to the web or when they downloaded from the web.
The largest man-made non-nuclear explosion was the 1985 U.S. Minor Scale in New Mexico. Its explosive force was equivalent to an estimated four kilotonnes of TNT.