The terrifying explosion in Beirut; Update: Ammonium nitrate?

There are no details yet about who, what, or why as I write this at noon, but the clips speak for themselves.

The reason so many cameras were trained on that area when the bomb went off is that there were actually two explosions. The first, smaller one took place at the port, according to reporter Joyce Karam. Beirut residents were filming that when the big boom happened not far away, inside the city itself. Could it be that a fire from the first explosion spread to something combustible, or is a bomb the only conceivable explanation?

Prime Minister Saad Hariri is reportedly okay. Anytime something explodes in Beirut, Hezbollah is the first suspect; Karam notes that the verdict of a UN-backed tribunal into the assassination of Hariri’s father, former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, is expected within days. Maybe this is Hezbollah either sending a statement about the tribunal or defiantly trying to take out the younger Hariri before it’s formally found guilty of killing the elder one.

Stand by for updates. I’m curious to know what generated that distinctive red smoke.

Update: The aftermath of the shockwave.

Update: For what it’s worth: “The state-run National News Agency reported that a fire had broken out in a fireworks storehouse at the port before the explosion. But it was not immediately clear what had caused such a large blast.”

Update: A former BBC correspondent says she felt the shockwave from the blast in Cyprus. That’s … 150 miles away.

Update: An interesting point by Noah Pollak:

He speculates that one of Iran’s many enemies may have targeted Hezbollah’s weapons depot in the belief that Biden will soon be president and the U.S. will shift back towards appeasing Iran. If that’s so, efforts to disarm Iran now may get … aggressive.

Just massive destruction this afternoon:

Update: Nuclear experts are assuring people that, as enormous as the blast was, it wasn’t atomic. That should have been clear enough from the lack of a flash in the clips, but there you have it.

Update: Again, for what it’s worth:

Update: Seems awfully coincidental:

Update: The Lebanese government does seem to be sticking to the story that this was an accident. A really, really big one:

Reportedly more than 50 are dead and 3,000 injured.