An explosion at a warehouse in the Port of Beirut, Lebanon, killed more than 70 people and left more than 4,000 people injured on Tuesday. In the aftermath of the explosion, videos uploaded to social media show plumes of red-brown smoke and the apocalyptic extent of the destruction, with buildings leveled for miles.
According to a report by Al Jazeera, Lebanon Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the explosion was fueled by a stockpile of over 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, confiscated and stored for approximately six years at the port. The explosive potential of ammonium nitrate is well understood and has been used in numerous terrorist attacks including the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.
So what is ammonium nitrate, why is it explosive and why do we use it? Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound containing the element nitrogen (as well as hydrogen and oxygen) and is commonly used in agriculture as fertilizer. Plants rely on photosynthesis, converting sunlight to energy using chlorophyll. Nitrogen is an essential element for this process and ammonium nitrate is particularly good, compared with other fertilizers, at delivering plants nutrients.
Please pray and always keep safe.