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  #21  
Old Posted Aug 7, 2020, 5:49 AM
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Originally Posted by MonctonRad View Post


The Halifax Explosion was bigger, estimated to be 3 kT of TNT equivalent. Beirut is estimated to be 1.5kT.

Regardless, the video out of Beirut is very instructive as to what the Halifax Explosion must have been like. I can't imagine any other single accidental man made explosion in the last century that was anywhere near equivalent to these two spectacular events.

Between the explosions and the pandemic, 2020 is 1917 all over again...…..
It's a tragedy yet the modern capturing of what happened in Beirut tells us about what the Halifax Explosion would have been like. As far as I know there is no video of the Halifax Explosion itself, and there are only a few pictures of the cloud.

Last edited by someone123; Aug 7, 2020 at 6:25 AM.
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  #22  
Old Posted Aug 7, 2020, 9:21 AM
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Originally Posted by JHikka View Post
Not sure where all the nuclear testing through the 50s and 60s winds up but that was the list I saw, anyway.
It must have ignored them as the thermonuclear weapon tests were far more powerful. The biggest was the infamous Tsar Bomba at 50 megatons of TNT equivalent:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsar_Bomba
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  #23  
Old Posted Aug 7, 2020, 11:48 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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First thing I thought when I saw this on the news was how similar the situation was to the Halifax Explosion. Massive fire, curious people gather to watch and then unfortunately were exposed to the blast unexpectedly.

I'm surprised that they are still saying there are only 150 casualties as I expected it to be in the thousands based on the videos.

Horrible situation, and totally unnecessary. Very poor management of the stored 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate!
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  #24  
Old Posted Aug 8, 2020, 1:19 PM
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Originally Posted by OldDartmouthMark View Post

I'm surprised that they are still saying there are only 150 casualties as I expected it to be in the thousands based on the videos.

Horrible situation, and totally unnecessary. Very poor management of the stored 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate!
There is an interesting article on Wired Science about this. It's possible the "charge strength" of Beirut is larger than Halifax, however the nature of the explosives is key.

Ammonium Nitrate can be very volatile especially if it's formulated for mining and not agricultural fertilizer. Videos of the warehouse prior showing the label Nitrophil suggest a mining application. That said, it's nowhere near as efficient as a military grade high-explosive, even in 1917.

In comparison the materials in Halifax were high-grade explosives. The difference as explained in the article was the over pressure created by the detonation. There are two types of blast wave, a pressure wave or a shock wave. A pressure wave doesn't move as fast and builds more slowly. A shock wave goes from 0 to Max almost instantly and moves hyper-sonically. The difference to people who are hit is akin to falling down a steep hill and rolling to a stop vs. falling from the high in the air and hitting flat ground at terminal velocity.

By measuring videos of the condensation cloud in Beirut, they determine that the explosion created a pressure wave, not a shock wave. This greatly reduced catastrophic injury at distance.

Halifax's explosion almost certainly created a shockwave which would have caused instantly fatal injuries to those unlucky enough to be in the way.
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  #25  
Old Posted Aug 10, 2020, 12:27 PM
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The Washington Post picked up on the parallels with the Halifax Explosion in this piece by John Bacon that appeared on the weekend:

How the explosive destruction of Halifax holds lessons — and hope — for Beirut

Bacon authored the 2017 book The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism. It's a very readable book, if a bit US-centric. In my opinion the best book about the Explosion remains Curse of The Narrows: The Halifax Disaster of 1917 by Laura MacDonald (2005). MacDonald saw the parallels between Halifax and another traumatic event of our time, the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Centre (which she watched from the window of her Harlem apartment). Both books are worth reading.

A final note, for those who haven't seen it. CBC reported a few weeks ago the discovery of what appears to be a previously unknown photo of the Explosion.
A municipal archives in Belleville ON discovered the photo in a collection they acquired in 2012. The validity of the photo is still uncertain, but the research done so far seems to support the theory the image was shot by Reginald Stevens, a mate aboard HMCS Niobe at the time of the Explosion.

The photo and the article:

Is this 'surreal nightmare' an unpublished photo of the Halifax Explosion?
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  #26  
Old Posted Aug 10, 2020, 12:54 PM
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Interesting, thanks for posting.
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  #27  
Old Posted Aug 10, 2020, 1:30 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by terrynorthend View Post
There is an interesting article on Wired Science about this. It's possible the "charge strength" of Beirut is larger than Halifax, however the nature of the explosives is key.

Ammonium Nitrate can be very volatile especially if it's formulated for mining and not agricultural fertilizer. Videos of the warehouse prior showing the label Nitrophil suggest a mining application. That said, it's nowhere near as efficient as a military grade high-explosive, even in 1917.

In comparison the materials in Halifax were high-grade explosives. The difference as explained in the article was the over pressure created by the detonation. There are two types of blast wave, a pressure wave or a shock wave. A pressure wave doesn't move as fast and builds more slowly. A shock wave goes from 0 to Max almost instantly and moves hyper-sonically. The difference to people who are hit is akin to falling down a steep hill and rolling to a stop vs. falling from the high in the air and hitting flat ground at terminal velocity.

By measuring videos of the condensation cloud in Beirut, they determine that the explosion created a pressure wave, not a shock wave. This greatly reduced catastrophic injury at distance.

Halifax's explosion almost certainly created a shockwave which would have caused instantly fatal injuries to those unlucky enough to be in the way.
Interesting info. Thanks for posting it.

Probably a couple other factors that contribute to the higher death rate in the Halifax Explosion were as follows (IMHO):

1) The Beirut explosion occurred in an industrial area that offered a bit of a buffer zone for the residential areas. In 1917 Halifax, although there was industrial activity in the city, residential was pretty much built right down to the water.

2) Structural integrity of Halifax's wooden buildings of the time would not have stood up to the blast as well as more modern structures, plus would not have been as susceptible to fire - many of the deaths in Halifax happened from building collapse and the resultant fire as in December everybody had a wood or coal stove heating their home/business.

Additionally there was a lot of blindness in Halifax caused by broken glass when people were looking out their windows towards the fire.

Interesting discussion.

ns_kid, thanks for posting the link but unfortunately it's behind a paywall. I don't want to sign up for it at the moment, but it sounds interesting.

I also have been following the discussion on that photo that turned up on CBC - IMHO it's the real deal.
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  #28  
Old Posted Aug 10, 2020, 2:39 PM
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Originally Posted by OldDartmouthMark View Post
ns_kid, thanks for posting the link but unfortunately it's behind a paywall. I don't want to sign up for it at the moment, but it sounds interesting.
Thanks, Mark. Yes, the Post has a very efficient paywall; however, they generally allow one free view so clearing your browser history may allow you to access it.

In his article, Bacon reviews the well-known history of course, making the observation that, "The Halifax government coordinated one of the most miraculous rescue and relief efforts ever conducted, while Beirut's fails to provide reliable garbage pick-up, electricity or potable water."

But he compares the international response to Beirut with the aid that flowed to Halifax after the Explosion, noting that this has the power to break down old barriers. (Even Israel offered humanitarian assistance despite recent cross-border attacks; Tel Aviv illuminated its municipal building in the colours of the Lebanese flag.)

He concludes that "the generosity that flowed into Halifax showed human kindness could not be erased by even the greatest man-made explosion the world had ever seen. Of the many lessons Canada's disaster holds for Beirut -- and a watching world eager to help -- that might prove to be the most lasting."

MacDonald made a similar observation in her book contrasting the Explosion and 9/11. Of course the Bush administration later squandered that international goodwill with its ill-advised war on Iraq.
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  #29  
Old Posted Aug 12, 2020, 1:23 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Thanks, ns_kid. I was finally able to read the article by accessing it on a different computer. I probably could have just cleared the cookies from my browser, but I tried the other computer first.

In reading about the compassion shown by Boston to dispatch aid immediately, I'm reminded of the stories from my Grandmother and how much that aid was appreciated by the survivors of the explosion. It went over and above medical aid as well - she and her family basically lost everything except their lives in the explosion, yet I recall her telling me that some of the furniture in her house (I recall a nice hutch, but there were other items) was supplied by the relief efforts to help people rebuild their lives. When you have lost everything, these bright spots of generosity and empathy help to give you the strength needed to get through the toughest of times.

The acts of kindness are significant and need to be remembered for their importance. In these days of political nastiness and arguing over minutia on the internet, it's easy to forget some days that kindness and compassion are what connects us as a society, and reading about how Halifax recovered from this disaster mostly through these acts of kindness is a good reminder for all of us. Hopefully Beirut will experience a similar resurgence.
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