The huge chemical explosion that hit the port of Beirut, devastating large parts of the Lebanese capital and claiming more than 150 lives, left a crater 43 meters (141 feet) deep, a security official said Sunday. The blast Tuesday, which was felt across the county and as far as Cyprus Island, was recorded by American Institute of Geophysics (USGS) sensors as having the power of an earthquake of magnitude 3.3.
It was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse where, according to authorities, a huge shipment of dangerous ammonium nitrate, a chemical that can be used as a fertilizer or as an explosive, had been languishing for years. The enormous blast also wounded at least 6,000 people and displaced more than 300,000 from their homes which had been destroyed or damaged.
It was a new tactic for a protest movement that erupted last October demanding the dismissal of a long suspected political elite of being incompetent and corrupt.
“The port explosion left a crater 43 meters deep,” Lebanese security official told AFP, citing French expert reports in the disaster area. According to an international tribunal investigating his assassination, the crater is even larger than the one created by the massive explosion in 2005 that killed former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, which measured 10 meters wide and two meters deep.