Researchers plot the chain of events that led to an explosion in Beirut

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So much has happened this year that you may have let the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon slip your mind.

On 4th August, an explosion tore through the port of Beirut, killing 200 people and injuring 6 500. But piecing together what happened has been tricky. Or at least it had been tricky.

Working with independent online newspaper Mada Masr, Forensic Architecture, which is a research agency investigating human rights violations among other things, have pieced together a timeline regarding the explosion.

In order to do this, the pair used images and videos taken by witnesses

“Using details about the smoke, fires, and explosions, we were able to geolocate each piece of footage and calculate the camera’s cone of vision,” Forensic Architecture explains.

This geolocation allowed the researchers to place where the fire was in the warehouse at any point. This helped the researchers determine what material was burning at any given point in a video or image.

Forensic Architecture employed the help of an explosives expert working for the United Nations, one Gareth Collett, who explained that the arrangement of goods in the warehouse was similar to that of a makeshift bomb waiting to be detonated.

“Ammonium Nitrate is extremely difficult to detonate by fire alone. However, when confined and contaminated, this… can lead to catastrophic detonation. It is sensitised by the presence of even the smallest quantity of additives and hence should be separated,” Collett explained.

With all of the data available to it, including photos of Ammonium Nitrate bags within the warehouse, Forensic Architecture created a Blender render that helped them map out how the explosion happened.

It is a fascinating look at how data and social media can be used to help give greater insight into events such as this.

There is a 12 minute long video you can watch below but for a full explanation, head to the Forensic Architecture website. The 3D models used can also be found on GitHub here.

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.