Satellite imagery shows scale of destruction after explosion at Beirut port

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Social Newsgathering team from Planet Labs, Inc. and Maxar Technologies shows the damage sustained by yesterday’s explosions at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon.

The imagery shows nearby buildings that sustained significant damage or were destroyed by the explosion, which has killed more than 135 people and injured at least 5,000, Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hasan said Wednesday. About 200,000 people are now displaced in the city, according to Beirut’s governor Marwan Abboud.

The blast, which Lebanese officials say was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in storage near the port, registered as a magnitude 3.3 earthquake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Ammonium nitrate, also called AN, is a compound of ammonium and nitrogen that is used in agricultural fertilizer and explosives. Generally, AN can be relatively stable and is used in U.S. farming regularly, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But contaminants and other trace material can make AN unstable. The volatile nature of the compound had led some governments to create strict policies when it comes to storing the material.

Social Newsgathering team, which has been circulating online following the blast, appears to show bags of ammonium nitrate stored inside a warehouse reportedly at the port.

Port of Beirut is a major port in the eastern Mediterranean and is considered a main gateway to the country. The port, which is owned by the Lebanese government, is managed by the head of the port, Hassan Koraytem, who is now under house arrest, according to local media reports.