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What the Beirut blast might have looked like if it hit Los Angeles

PortandTerminal.com, August 7, 2020

LOS ANGELES – The massive explosion in Beirut last Tuesday destroyed Lebanon’s largest port killing 154 people dead, injuring 5,000 and leaving 300,000 homeless. UNICEF estimates some 80,000 children have been displaced.

For now, the government has said the blast was the result of the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored unsafely at the port for six years. An investigation is underway.

In fact, there were two blasts. It was the second of the two that caused the most widespread destruction to Beirut. It could be heard more than 100 miles away in Cyprus and shattered windows at Beirut’s airport nearly 10 kilometers (6 miles) away.

The two explosions levelled dozens of buildings, stretching from Beirut’s industrial waterfront to residential neighbourhoods and popular tourist districts.

What damage would a similar-sized explosion have done had it happened at the Port of Los Angeles, America’s largest port?

Impact of a Beirut sized explosion on Los Angeles

Los Angeles

The map above show three rings representing different levels of damage: areas within a 1-kilometre radius of the blast (0.6 miles) suffered the worst destruction, structures in the 5 km (3 miles) radius were heavily damaged, and the 10 km (6 miles) radius represents how far damage was reported.

1 km (0.6 mi) blast radius

Beirut port following explosion
Epicenter of Beirut port explosion

The epicenter of the Beirut blast was at a port warehouse near the grain silos. Had the blast occurred at the Port of Los Angeles with its center at Terminal Island, pretty much everything in the Google maps satellite photo below would have been completely destroyed. That could also include any vessels caught in the 1 km blast epicenter.

Port of Los Angeles – approx 1 km radius blast area

5 km (3 mi) blast radius

The Queen Mary at the Port of Long Beach would have sustained heavy damage from a Beirut sized blast occurring 3 miles away at the Port of Los Angeles.

Moving outwards from Terminal Island, the blast would have caused very heavy damage to structures as far as 3 miles away in all directions. In our map of Los Angeles, that means the Port of Long Beach to the east would have been badly damaged.

10 km (6 mi) blast radius

In Beirut, the airport, located about 10 km (6 miles) away from the explosion sustained significant but not catastrophic damage. In Los Angeles, approximately 527,000 people live within a 6-mile radius of Terminal Island – our supposed explosion epicenter. Had the blast occurred there, many thousands of those people would now be homeless.

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