© 2020 Maxar Technologies; BlackSky Global Monitoring
New satellite photos show the aftermath of Tuesday’s massive, deadly explosion in the port of Beirut.
A picture taken by the satellite company BlackSky shows extensive damage to the harbor after the explosion. Several warehouses appear to be flattened and a cruise ship called the Orient Queen can be seen on one side, according to Allison Puccioni, an analyst and founder of Armillary Services, an independent company that has partnered with BlackSky.
“The entire warehouse infrastructure is smooth,” says Puccioni. “You can see some of the foundations and load-bearing columns in some of the buildings, but they’re just torn down.”
In the picture, debris can also be seen covering a main road over 1,000 feet south of the blast site, a sign of the force of the explosion. And Puccioni says that heavy damage extends over half a mile into the city. The blast killed at least 100 people and injured thousands more.
The BlackSky image and an image of the commercial company Planet show a smoke or debris still rising from the surrounding area 8:00 local time Wednesday – over 12 hours after the explosion occurred.
Before and after SkySat images show the effects of yesterday’s explosion in Beirut.
Pictures taken on May 31, 2020 and today August 5, 2020. pic.twitter.com/8zCLDOZn4w
– Planet (@planetlabs) August 5, 2020
Pictures taken later in the morning by the company Maxar show the biggest fire extinguishing.
Reports suggest that the incident triggered when a fire in a part of the port reached a huge cache of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that had been unloaded months earlier. The fertilizer, which is very explosive, was detonated almost immediately in such a large explosion that the US Geological Survey registered it as a 3.3 magnitude earthquake.
© 2020 Maxar Technologies
Videos and reports indicate that the shock wave traveled miles from the site, and windows were reportedly counted as far away as Cyprus.
The blast was so large, some feared it might have been nuclear. Independent analysts quickly dismissed these rumors, but preliminary calculations show that the explosion could have been in the range of 0.2-0.5 kilotons. By comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima 75 years ago this week was 15 kilotons.
The bags say “NITROPRILL HD”, which may be a knock-off of Nitropril as Orica has done.
Orica sets the TNT equivalent for fire at 15 percent.
.15 x 2750 = 412.5
An additional data point suggesting the explosion was a few hundred tons. https://t.co/ucuHdpazm3
– Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) August 4, 2020
It is difficult to assess the damage from space due to Beirut’s older buildings and compact design, says Puccioni. Still, she is amazed at the size of the explosion. “I have not seen anything really like it.”