Lebanese Prime Minister Hasan Diab has said that the explosions in Beirut, which have already killed more than 100 people and injured 4,000, according to the latest figures – including his wife and daughter – were caused by the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that were stored in the port of the Lebanese capital.

“It is inadmissible that a shipment of ammonium nitrate, estimated at 2,750 tonnes, has been in storage for six years without preventive measures. This is unacceptable and we cannot remain silent on this issue,” the prime minister said at the meeting of the High Council on Defence, according to a spokesman quoted at a press conference. Diab promised that those responsible would be “held accountable” and called on “friendly countries” to help. The United States, where its president believes a “terrible attack” has announced that it is “ready to provide assistance” to the Lebanese people, while France announced the sending of aid.

However, from the words of the Prime Minister, everything points to the fact that the warehouse where this fertilizer was found was the origin of the explosions that have resulted in tens of deaths and thousands of wounded. The images broadcast by the local media and witnesses showed how a first explosion is wrapped in fire, followed by a second one that causes a white fungus and a large shock wave.

Ammonium nitrate is the base of many nitrogen fertilizers, and has caused several industrial accidents or attacks such as that committed in 1995 in Oklahoma City, United States, by a white supremacist. Ammonium nitrate is a white, odorless salt that is used as a base for many nitrogen fertilizers in the form of granules, aminonitrates, which are highly soluble in water and which farmers buy in large bags. They are not combustible products, but oxidants. Detonation is possible in medium and high doses and in the presence of combustible substances or intense sources of heat.

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