A social media post has been circulating, comparing the 2020 Beirut explosion to a recent case in West Bengal where a large amount of ammonium nitrate was seized. The post claims that the amount of ammonium nitrate caught in West Bengal is 10 times more than what caused the Beirut explosion and raises concerns about potential massive damage. Let’s verify the claim made in the post.
Claim: The amount of ammonium nitrate seized in West Bengal is 27,000 kg, 10 times more than the amount that caused the Beirut explosion in 2020.
Fact: The amount of ammonium nitrate involved in the 2020 Lebanon explosion was 2,750 tonnes. In contrast, the amount of ammonium nitrate seized in West Bengal by the Kolkata Special Task Force last year was 27,000 kg. This quantity is approximately 1/100th of the ammonium nitrate that caused the Beirut explosion. Therefore, the claim made in the post is MISLEADING.
According to reports, the Lebanon blast that occurred due to the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in August 2020 killed 218 people, injured more than 7,000 people, displaced 300,000 people, and caused estimated material damage worth $3.8-4.6 billion.
Regarding the case in West Bengal, on 31 March 2023, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested two suppliers of explosives and gelatin sticks in connection with a detonator seizure case. The two accused Merazuddin Ali Khan of Bokaro and Mir Md. Nuruzzaman of Birbhum, were arrested from the Raniganj and Kolkata regions in West Bengal.
In June 2022, the Kolkata Special Task Force intercepted a Tata Sumo car transporting around 81,000 electric detonators. The driver, Ashis Keora, was arrested and led the police to a stash of illegally stored explosives, including 27,000 kg of ammonium nitrate, 1,625 kg of gelatin sticks, and 2,325 more electric detonators. The case was initially registered at Md Bazar Police Station in Birbhum district in West Bengal, and the NIA took over the case in September 2022.
Nuruzzaman had reportedly supplied 27,000 kg of ammonium nitrate to another accused, Rintu Sk, while Merazuddin had supplied electric detonators and gelatin sticks to Rintu Sk. The NIA continues to investigate the sources of these explosives and other bomb-making materials.
However, drawing a comparison between the Lebanon blast and the amount of ammonium nitrate seized in Bengal is misleading because the quantity discovered in Bengal is only about 1/100th of what was involved in the Beirut explosion.
To sum it up, the amount of ammonium nitrate found in Kolkata is approximately 1/100th of the amount that caused the Lebanon blast in 2020.