How Beirut Explosion Compares With Hiroshima Bomb

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb, just two days after an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, killed more than 100 people and injured thousands more. But how does the explosion in Beirut compare to the Hiroshima bomb?

Towards the end of the Second World War, the U.S. dropped bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6 and August 9, 1945.

The Hiroshima bomb was known as "Little Boy" and was a 9,000-pound uranium-235 bomb loaded aboard a modified B-29 bomber christened Enola Gay, after the mother of its pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets.

The Hiroshima bomb exploded 2,000 feet above the city and was equal to 12-15,000 tons of TNT.

It destroyed five miles of the city and killed an estimated 140,000 people, with around 80,000 people dying immediately and thousands of others dying later from their injuries. A 1998 study estimates that 60,000 people died years later from illnesses linked to radiation poisoning caused by the bombings.

On Tuesday, August 4, an explosion occurred in Lebanon's capital city of Beirut.

The explosion in Beirut was caused by the detonation of around 2,750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate. The blast could be heard 100 miles away in Cyprus and the explosion shook the earth with the power of a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. Damage was reported two miles from the site of the explosion.

Professor Andy Tyas, an expert on blast protection engineering at the University of Sheffield told the Evening Standard that they think the explosion was equivalent to 1,000-1,500 tonnes of TNT.

Therefore, the Beirut explosion had around 10 percent of the intensity of the Hiroshima bomb.

Beirut Explosion Site
An aerial view of ruined structures at the port, damaged by an explosion a day earlier, on August 5, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon. As of Wednesday, more than 100 people were confirmed dead, with thousands injured, when an explosion rocked the Lebanese capital. Officials said a waterfront warehouse storing explosive materials, reportedly 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, was the cause of the blast. Haytham El Achkar/Getty

Professor Tyas told the Evening Standard: "Whatever the precise charge size, this is unquestionably one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, far bigger than any conventional weapon.

"The effects of an event like this are catastrophic to people, infrastructure, economic livelihoods, and to the environment."

More than 5,000 people in Beirut have been injured and at least 135 were killed. Beirut's governor Marwan Aboud told the BBC that as many as 300,000 people have been left homeless by the blast: "Beirut needs food, Beirut needs clothes, houses, materials to rebuild houses. Beirut needs a place for the refugees, for its people."

The explosion damaged or destroyed 85 percent of the country's grain, which was located in silos near the explosion site. Lebanon already faced food insecurity which has now been exacerbated by the destruction of the port, as the country relies on imports for around 80 percent of what it consumes, especially food.

Additionally, the Beirut explosion may result in health issues in those affected by the blast. When ammonium nitrate explodes, it can release ammonia, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxides into the air.

High levels of nitrogen oxides can be problematic for those with respiratory issues, and high levels of ammonia in the air can cause a person's eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract to burn and can cause blindness, lung damage, and death.

Finally, being exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide can cause health issues such as increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure to rise, comas, suffocation, and convulsions.