On August 4, 2020, due to Beirut’s powerful explosion, more than 200 people were killed, and 6.5 thousand were injured. With the help of videos and photos of this event posted by users of social networks, forensic scientists could recreate a picture of what happened.
A few minutes after the explosion, they began sharing videos of the fire and the subsequent explosion. These videos have become an essential tool for experts at the University of London research team to determine the disaster’s cause.
The findings are presented in a 12-minute video in which they used video clips filmed throughout the city on the day of the explosion, from the smoke plumes that began to rise from the warehouse to the explosion itself.
They found that in October 2014, at Beirut’s docks, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were unloaded and later stored. Over the years, the city has received several reports of security risks to the material stored there. A chemical examination in February 2015 found that 70% of the nearly 3,000 bags in which ammonium nitrate was stored were torn, and the crystalline material was outside.
Photos are taken inside the building before the incident show that the same warehouse contained 23 tons of fireworks, over a thousand rubber car tires, and five rolls of a flammable cord. According to forensic experts and technical experts, the warehouse contents have become a kind of homemade bomb.
As part of the study, GitHub unveiled 3D models developed by Forensic Architecture, including a warehouse, smoke clouds, the start of an explosion, and part of the city of Beirut detailing where some of the main videos were filmed.
Scientists hope the study will contribute to the principles of safe handling and storage of hazardous materials in the future.