US Has New Theory on Cause of Lebanon Blast

Review puts blame on maintenance work
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2020 5:27 PM CDT
Updated Aug 14, 2020 6:15 AM CDT
Welding Probably Sparked the Beirut Blasts: Investigations
A United Nations Maritime Task Force ship docks Thursday near the site of the Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut.   (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

A US review has found that maintenance work probably triggered the deadly explosion in Beirut last week. The State Department is in agreement on the cause with Lebanese investigators, the Wall Street Journal reports, though President Trump had blamed "a bomb of some kind" immediately after the blast. US and Lebanese officials think welding at a warehouse at the city's port set materials on fire, which then touched off a chemical stockpile. Videos show an explosion at the port before the larger blast shook Beirut. More than 160 people were killed in the Aug. 4 explosions; at least 60 remain missing. The State Department has found no signs that an attack or any crime was behind the explosions. Trump backed away from the bomb claim the next day, saying, "They don’t really know what it was."

An Israeli expert said data from seismological sensors across the region show a series of six blasts took place before the main one. Boaz Hayoun, a former military engineering officer who's a munitions expert, said the six explosions took place at 11-second intervals, followed by a 43-second pause before the city erupted. "I cannot say categorically what caused this, but I can say these blasts were at the same location," Hayoun said, per Reuters. IRIS, an international geological project, said it picked up what it called the "small bursts" but doesn't think they're connected to the main explosion. On Thursday, a US astronaut tweeted a look at the devastated city from the International Space Station taken Tuesday. "Thinking of Beirut today. My heart goes out to all of those who have been affected by the recent tragedy," Chris Cassidy posted. "Sending love from @Space_Station." (More Beirut stories.)

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