The massive explosion at the port of Beirut occurred due to the detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which was seized in 2014 from the ship Rhosus, the Lebanese TV channel LBCI reports following a meeting of the Supreme Council for the Defense of Lebanon.
According to the port manager, no one had access to the warehouse, but a recent inspection found that the warehouse could be accessed through a hole in the wall, while the lock on the door needed to be replaced. The explosion occurred during welding works conducted during door repairs: sparks supposedly ignited some firecrackers, that were also stored at the warehouse, and then 2,750 tons of nitrate detonated.
The Rhosus vessel, operating under the Moldovan flag, belonged to Igor Grechushkin, a native of Russia’s Khabarovsk who currently resides in Cyprus. The vessel carrying 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate from Georgia’s Batumi to Mozambique made an unscheduled stop in Beirut in September 2013 due to problems on board.
Having examined the Rhosus, inspectors prohibited the crew from taking the ship out of the port. The Lebanese authorities released part of the crew, but left four sailors, who were forbidden to leave the ship until the arrival of the replacement crew. The owner, according to the sailors, abandoned the ship: creditors’ lawyers received three arrest warrants for the Rhosus, which operated under the Moldovan flag.
Originally, there were eight Ukrainian sailors on board, five of whom were able to return home by contacting the Ukrainian consul. To maintain life-sustaining activities on the vessel, four crew members remained on board: three Ukrainians and one Russian, who returned from Lebanon only a year later. Due to the risks associated with the storage of ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the administration of the port moved the cargo to one of the warehouses on the shore. The explosion occurred around that area.
According to MarineTraffic service, which last recorded the location of the Rhosus in 2014, the vessel was indeed staying near the 12th berth, where the explosion occurred.
The massive explosion occurred on Tuesday evening in the port area of Beirut. The death toll щаthe accident exceeded 100 people, more than four thousand people were injured. At the same time, the Lebanese authorities expect an increase in the number of victims due to the large number of missing persons. Rescuers still continue the works to recover bodies from under the rubble of collapsed buildings. Three days of mourning were declared in Lebanon in connection with the tragedy.
Over 300,000 residents of Beirut have been left without their homes as a result of the explosions.
The head of the Lebanese customs service, Badri Daher, told OTV television that the authorities plan to complete an investigation into the causes of the explosion within five days.
Donald Trump says Beirut explosion was terrorist attack
Interestingly, US President Donald Trump, contrary to statements from Lebanese officials, called the accident in Beirut an attack. He explained that he had met with US generals, and they, according to him, consider the explosions in Beirut an attack, given the nature of the explosion.” However, it was later said that if the US military had evidence of such an attack, the US authorities would immediately take measures to protect the US armed forces and property in the region, but such instructions were not released.
It was also said with reference to Lebanese security forces that the exploded hanger was also used to store equipment for assembling high-range precision missiles. Components of such missiles had been delivered from Iran to Lebanon for Hezbollah, which essentially represents Iran’s interests in the country. Other sources said that the explosion was based on the human factor.