The Beirut blast measured 2.75 kilotons. How that compares with other major explosions in history

The images were apocalyptic. But how does the Beirut explosion compare to some other major blasts, in terms of the size of blast and human toll?

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By Jonathan Bradley

At least 113 people were killed and more than 4,000 were injured after a warehouse explosion sent a blast across Beirut on Tuesday.

Lebanese rescue workers are searching for survivors in the mangled wreckage of buildings, and investigators blamed negligence for the explosion.

Tens of thousands of people have been left without  homes to live in.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said 2.75 kilotons of ammonium nitrate, used for fertilizer and bombs and stored at the port for six years without safety measures, exploded.

The images were apocalyptic. How does the Beirut explosion compare to some other major blasts throughout world history, in terms of the size of blast and human toll? Below is a comparison:

Aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, Dec. 6, 1917. Photo by National Archives of Canada

Halifax Harbour Explosion (1917)

Kilotons: 2.9 kilotons

Death toll: 1,963 people

Injuries: 9,000 people

The Mont Blanc, a French vessel loaded with 2.9 kilotons of explosives, collided with the Belgian relief ship, Imo, in Halifax harbour on Dec. 6, 1917. A fire broke out on the Mont Blanc, which firefighters tried to extinguish. The flames reached the Mont Blanc’s cargo, and an explosion that had a 2.9 kiloton blast was created.


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The official death toll from the Halifax explosion was 1,963 people. Nine thousand people were injured, 6,000 people were left homeless.

The plume of smoke from a mushroom cloud billows, about one hour after the nuclear bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan on Aug. 6, 1945. Photo by U.S. Army via Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Bombing of Hiroshima (1945)

Kilotons: 12 to 15 kilotons

Death toll: 80,000 people

Injuries: Tens of thousands

An American B-29 bomber during the Second World War dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945. The bombing killed 80,000 people, but tens of thousands were sickened with radiation exposure, and would later die from it.

The blast destroyed five-square miles of the city.

A view of the destroyed 4th power block of Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant afew days after the catastrophe. Photo by File

Chernobyl nuclear accident (1986)

Kilotons: 0.3 kilotons

Death toll: 30 people

Injuries: 6,500 injuries

The Chernobyl accident on April 26, 1986, happened because of a flawed nuclear reactor design that was operated with inadequately trained staff. The steam explosion and fires coming from the reactor created a 0.3 kiloton blast.

Thirty people were killed in the Chernobyl accident, but a further 6,500 people developed thyroid cancer from the radiation that was released.

The Albert P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City shows the devastation caused by a fuel-and fertilizer truck bomb that was detonated April 19, 1995. Photo by Bob Daemmrich/AFP via Getty Images

Oklahoma City bombing (1995)

Kilotons: 0.0025 kilotons

Death toll: 168 people

Injuries: Several hundred

Timothy McVeigh, a former army soldier and security guard, detonated a bomb made out of agriculture fertilizer, diesel fuel and other chemicals inside a vehicle next to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

The death toll from the Oklahoma City Bombing was 168 people. Several hundred people were injured. It was the worst act of home-grown terrorism in U.S.history.


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Smoke and fire rises over train cars after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013. Photo by Dario Ayala/Postmedia

Lac-Megantic, Quebec rail disaster (2013)

Kilotons: 0.0001 kilotons

Death toll: 47 people

Injuries: Hundreds

A runaway train hauling 72 tankers filled with crude oil derailed as it approached the centre of Lac-Megantic, Que., on July 6, 2013.

Almost six million litres of crude oil leaked from the tankers that derailed and exploded, creating a blast equal to 0.0001 kilotons that killed 47 people and destroyed many buildings and other infrastructure in the town’s centre.

Years after the derailment, rebuilding is ongoing on Lac-Megantic, and hundreds of the town’s residents continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress.

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