Forensics Researchers Used Social Media Videos To Show What Caused The Beirut Explosion That Killed 200 People

Dhir Acharya - Nov 25, 2020


Forensics Researchers Used Social Media Videos To Show What Caused The Beirut Explosion That Killed 200 People

On August 4, the world learned about one of the most devastating explosions in Beirut that killed more than 200 people and injured over 6,500 more.

On August 4, the world learned about one of the most devastating explosions in Beirut that killed more than 200 people and injured over 6,500 more. But the worst thing about this unfortunate incident is that it could have been prevented easily. Forensics researchers have used videos on social media about the event to reconstruct the explosion, including the negligence leading to the tragedy.

beirut explosion
The explosion happened in August, killing 200 and injuring 6,500

Before there were had smartphones and social media, it was very complicated to determine the cause of events like this. At the time, forensics researchers might have obtained occasional traffic videos or security videos to dissect the event, but they had to mostly use the detailed aftermath analysis, including the resulting damage and debris. They then had to match it with knowledge of explosives to figure out what caused the explosion.

On August 4, within minutes after the explosions, social media users shared a lot of videos on Facebook and Twitter via their smartphones. Therefore, the world quickly saw what happened, but more importantly, they helped the Forensic Architecture group from the University of London reconstruct the cause of the horrifying blast.

They shared their findings in a 12-minute video, using random clips taken around the city and reconstructed the entire event including the smoke plumes and blast, among other things. However, it could only confirm what we had suspected before.

In October 2014, 2750 tones of a high-nitrogen fertilizer called ammonium nitrate were unloaded at the docks then stored in a warehouse nearby. In the following years, several reports had warned of the safety risks posed by the explosive load. In February 2015, a chemical forensics expert filed an alarming report that found 70 percent of the load had been torn open, and the material even spilled out.

From reports as well as photos shot inside the building, the explosive material was stored together with 23 tons of fireworks, 5 rolls of slow-burning detonating cord, and more than 1000 rubber car tires. Engineering experts and forensics researchers revealed that the warehouse’s contents created a bomb that waited to go off.

beirut explosion 3D model
The 3D models were developed based on videos taken around the city

During the investigation, the forensics researchers developed 3D models of the warehouse, the smoke, the blast, and parts of Beirut, using details from videos taken from several perspectives. As of now, it remains unclear how the explosion got so severe but the new research is expected to assist new safety guidelines on handling and storing such materials along with new methods of accountability.

We also hope that the next time when red flags are raised, proper actions will be taken immediately and seriously to avoid heartbreaking consequences.

>>> [Update] Horrific Lebanon Explosions Killed At Least 78 People, Injured 4,000 More Within Minutes

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