Australia-Beirut, Lebanon: The ammonium nitrate that humans love and hate – BBC News

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The chemical ammonium nitrate that triggered the explosion in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, has a wide range of economic uses and promoted the development of agriculture in various countries, but it has also become a murder weapon many times.

Aftermath of blast in Beirut

Ammonium nitrate can be a chemical fertilizer or an industrial explosive, which releases toxic gas after the explosion.

The chemical ammonium nitrate that triggered the Beirut explosion has a wide range of economic uses and promoted the development of agriculture in various countries, but it has also become a murder weapon many times.

Ammonium nitrate is a multi-purpose compound. It can be used as a nitrogen fertilizer or an industrial explosive. Even if it does not explode, improper storage can cause pollution to the surrounding environment.

It has caused the worst industrial explosion in American history and has been used as an explosive by terrorists many times.

It was also improperly stored and kept, which led to the biggest explosion accident since the founding of the People's Republic of China.

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Ammonium nitrate is not found naturally, but a synthetic chemical.It was first invented by the Germans in the 17th century and is mainly used as a high-nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture.

At the beginning of the 20th century, German chemist Haber invented the technology of large-scale production of ammonium nitrate, which can greatly increase the nitrogen content of the soil required by crops, laying the foundation for the doubling of the world’s population in the 21st century to ensure food production.This great scientist and friend of Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this.

During the development process, scientists discovered that ammonium nitrate can also become a powerful explosive.During World War II, ammonium nitrate became an essential material for explosives.

Even today, ammonium nitrate is often used as one of the components of explosive mixtures used in mining, quarrying, and civil engineering.

In the history of many countries in the world, ammonium nitrate has caused many explosions.

America's deadliest industrial accident

In 1947, a cargo ship carrying about 2300 tons of ammonium nitrate caused a fire in Texas City, a port city in Texas.

However, firefighters lacked knowledge of ammonium nitrate. When trying to cut off the air to put out the fire, the temperature of the ammonium nitrate warehouse was too high. A huge explosion occurred and the chemical tanks and oil refineries near the port were ignited.

A fireman looks up at exposed floors of Murrah building, with rescuers and smashed car also pictured

In 1995, American terrorists McVeigh and others used rented trucks to load nearly 2 tons of ammonium nitrate and other chemical-modified bombs to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

The explosion triggered a chain explosion on a nearby ship that also carried thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate more than ten hours later.

The big explosion also triggered a tsunami. At that time, the plane flying in the sky was destroyed and fell. The windows of some residential houses in Houston 40 kilometers away were directly shattered.

The catastrophe caused by the neglect of supervision of ammonium nitrate eventually killed 581 people and injured more than 3500. At that time, more than a quarter of the population of Texas were killed or injured in the disaster. Thousands of residential and commercial buildings were destroyed by explosions and tsunamis.

Your equipment does not support playing multimedia materialsVideo annotated text,

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The U.S. federal government has since strengthened the supervision of chemicals such as ammonium nitrate.However, in April 2013, another ammonium nitrate-related explosion occurred at a fertilizer plant in Texas, resulting in 4 deaths and more than 15 injuries. The surrounding buildings were also destroyed in the explosion.

Terrorist's explosives

Terrorists from all over the world have discovered the power of ammonium nitrate fertilizer as an explosive.

In 1995, American terrorists McVeigh and others used rented trucks to load nearly 2 tons of ammonium nitrate and other chemical-modified bombs to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

Also in the 90s, the extreme factions of the Irish Republican Army used ammonium nitrate in the UK, causing too many explosions.

After entering the 21st century, terrorist attacks such as the Bali nightclub bombing that killed 2002 people in 202 and the multi-death bombing made by Norwegian Breivik in 2011 all used ammonium nitrate as an explosive.

In 2001, Jin Ruchao, a criminal in Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province, retaliated against the society and created the intentional homicide bombing with the largest number of casualties since the founding of the People's Republic of China. He used a home-made bomb made with more than 5 kilograms of ammonium nitrate and killed 108 people.

8 Explosion accident in Tianjin Binhai New Area

Although governments all over the world have recognized the dangers of ammonium nitrate and issued regulations on the sale, transportation and storage of this chemical, the failure of corrupt officials to supervise them can still lead to ammonium nitrate explosions.

On the night of August 2015, 8, a fire in the Ruihai Company’s dangerous goods warehouse in Tianjin Port caused a huge chain explosion, killing 12 people, including about 165 firefighters, many people missing, 798 people injured, 304 buildings, 12428 commercial vehicles and 7533 containers were damaged.The open flame at the scene was extinguished two days later.

After investigation, the accident that caused international concern was considered to be China's largest production safety accident after the founding of the People's Republic of China. Hazardous chemicals such as ammonium nitrate stored in port warehouses were still one of the main components of the explosion.

Damaged cars are seen near the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district, Tianjin, 13 August 2015.


p role=”text” class=”bbc-iif8qe-Copyright etq3yw90″>Image source, Reuters


After the explosion occurred, after detailed investigation, more than 20 officials were prosecuted and sentenced, and 5 provincial and ministerial officials were punished.In addition, a year later, Huang Xingguo, then mayor and acting secretary of the Tianjin Municipal Party Committee, and Yang Dongliang, then secretary and director of the State Administration of Work Safety, were both expelled from public office and sentenced for corruption.

After the ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, the State Council of China also immediately convened a meeting to warn relevant domestic parties to learn from the major explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, and carry out special inspections and rectifications on the storage of hazardous chemicals in China.

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