Only a fraction of the stored ammonium nitrate would have exploded, indicates an FBI report released on October 7, 2020 and made public today by the Reuters news agency, a few days before the first commemoration of the drama of August 4, 2020.
The American agency estimates that 552 tons would have exploded out of the 2,754 tons that arrived in Lebanon in 2013 without giving more details on this difference, which could be induced by several factors such as the degradation of the cargo of ammonium nitrate for a long time. stored without any particular precaution and in particular the humidity which however causes an endothermic effect, by the fact that a large part of it would also have vaporized following the explosion in the surrounding places or by punctures in question to discover the recipients.
However, the absence of part of the cargo induce new leads for investigators.
In addition, some sources emphasize that this substance should not be stored near powerful explosives, which raises questions about the presence of 25 tons of fireworks in the same hangar 12 of the port of Beirut.
Local sources believe that Lebanese experts agree on these estimates made on the basis of analyzes carried out a few days after the tragedy which left more than 200 dead and 6,000 injured.
As a reminder, the authors of the report submitted by the French experts estimate the explosion which made a hole 131 meters long and 65 meters deep, estimate that it would be equivalent to 100 to 1000 tons of TNT.
The explosion at the Port of Beirut was caused, according to the Lebanese authorities, by the inadequate storage of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, an amount equivalent to that of 600 tonnes of TNT. This merchandise was reportedly seized from a ship in poor condition in 2014 and was bound for Africa. The freighter ended up sinking by itself in Beirut harbor a year later due to a dismal condition.
The merchandise had previously been transferred inside the port of Beirut, initially to be re-routed to Africa, security sources say.
The explosion set off a cloud that many compare to a nuclear bomb even as evidenced by the many videos from that moment posted on social media. It would have reached the equivalent of an earthquake of 3.3 on the Richter scale, the USGC website said last night. .
Ammonium nitrate is an explosive substance already at the origin of many tragedies, such as that of AZF factory in Toulouse, France, on September 21, 2001; of the West Fertilizer ammonia plant near Waco in Texas, in April 2013; of a warehouse in Tianjin port in China in 2015.
This substance is generally used as a fertilizer but can be used to produce explosives which seems to have been the case for this cargo which happened to be destined for a munitions factory.
The story of a garbage ship whose cargo runs aground at the port of Beirut
It all started in 2013 when a freighter flying the Moldovan flag, the Rhosus with on board 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was on its way from the port of Batumi in Georgia to Mozambique. This merchandise had been purchased by International Bank of Mozambique for Fábrica de Explosivos de Moçambique.
The owner, who actually leased the vessel, a certain Igor Grechushkin, is said to be a Russian national residing in Cyprus. The latter had received the sum of one million dollars to transport this merchandise considered dangerous to the port of Beira in Mozambique.
As for the captain of the ship, it would be a certain Prokoshev who would have taken control of the ship in Turkey, following a mutiny by his previous crew who had not been paid.
Then Grechushkin reportedly told the captain that he did not have sufficient funds to pay for passage through the Suez Canal. He allegedly ordered other goods to be loaded in Beirut in order to pay this sum. However, these goods cannot be put on board the freighter. According to the captain, following an inspection, the Lebanese authorities would have withdrawn the certificate of seaworthiness of the vessel and would have ordered its maintenance at the port of Beirut until payment of berthing costs and ancillary costs. The owner of the vessel Grechushkin, contacted by the crew to ensure the payment of food, fuel and other ancillary costs will be unreachable.
However, this version is contradicted by the Lebanese authorities who evoke a damage to its engine, the ship will first be towed to Beirut on November 21, 2013 , specifies the then Minister of Transport Ghazi Aridi.
6 crew members may leave the ship but 4 members, the captain and 3 Ukrainian nationals will remain on board. However, they will not be able to leave it because of the restrictions imposed by Lebanese law and will end up begging for food and water according to the lawyers who have taken charge of this case.
The lawyers of the Baroudi and Partners office representing this crew also alerted the Lebanese authorities of the dangerousness of the cargo. Eventually, they will be able to return home in August 2014 after Grechushkin agreed to pay for their return trip and the cargo was not unloaded until June 27, 2014.
It was then that the Lebanese authorities had to take charge of the goods.
As for the ship, it will sink in 2015. According to the testimonies of his crew, the latter suffered as soon as he left Turkey, from a major waterway requiring his pumps to run continuously.
Multiple responsibilities but above all, the bankruptcy of a paralyzed system
According to the information currently available, the security authorities including that of customs and port and customs officials have contacted the local justice on 5 occasions, between 2014 and 2017, to obtain the necessary authorizations to be able to dispose of it. of this merchandise stored in inadequate and dangerous conditions in the Amber 12 warehouse at the port, located between the 3rd and 4th basin.
As early as May 2016, Chafic Marhi, the then customs director, noted on his request that there was “a serious danger posed by keeping this cargo in warehouses in an inappropriate environment.” In the same letter, he asked that “the shipping agency can re-export this material immediately”.
Subsequently, a year later, in 2017 therefore, the customs authority proposed other solutions, such as the donation of these tons of ammonium nitrate to the Lebanese army, the sale via the Lebanese company for Explosives without however obtaining a response from the judicial authorities.
This version is confirmed by the director general of the port of Beirut, Hassan Koraytem, to whom the Lebanese justice would have promised that the ship and its goods would be put up for sale at auction, which will not happen … until resulting in the disaster of August 4, a fatal day marked by the destruction, in addition to the port, of a large part of the eastern part of the city of Beirut with the procession of its many victims.