Root Cause Analysis for the Twenty-First Century: Lessons from the Port of Beirut Explosion

The Event

On August 4, 2020, just after 6:00 pm, a fire that had been burning at a warehouse at the port of Beirut turned into a cataclysmic explosion that devastated the city, killing more than 200 people and injuring approximately 6,500. According to a team of researchers from Sheffield University, the blast—which caused at least 15 billion dollars in damage and devastated the Lebanese economy—is one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded.

The fundamental root cause of the explosion was the accidental detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound used in fertilizer production that was stored in the warehouse. However, this explanation neglects the complex interaction of events that led to both the fire and the subsequent explosion.

The Investigation

In November 2020, Legal Action Worldwide (LAW), a non-profit organization that provides access to legal resources for victims of disaster and violence around … Read more...