The explosion has been attributed to a fire, apparently beginning at a warehouse filled with fireworks, spreading to a cache estimated to contain 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound used in fertilizers and explosives.

The chemicals in question had reportedly been seized six years before from a ship and simply stored near the docks. Lebanon’s prime minister said that investigators will determine if negligence or criminal activity was behind the dangerous storage, but the overarching culprit seems to be rotten institutions.

The terrible event is perhaps most similar to the 1947 Texas City disaster, when a French cargo ship loaded with 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded in the harbor at Galveston, Texas. It killed more than 500 people and is considered one the worst accidents in US history.

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