Dan Azzi
June 2019


An Explosive Time at a Beirut Nightclub

Dan AzziDan Azzi

(Originally published in An-Nahar June 16, 2019, 14 months before the Port Explosion)

There’s no question that our nightlife is one of the best in the world, and, having been to 80 countries, I can authoritatively make that claim. Obviously, you usually go to these joints at night, where the darkness and lighting add to the trendy design effect.

It doesn’t help your situational awareness or concentration to watch all the hot, scantily-clad patrons saunter in front of you, while the valet parking attendant parks all the fancy Ferraris, Porsches, Bentleys, and black Jeep Cherokee, within a distance proportional to the price tag (and probable tip). If you own a Kia, he might ask you to park your own damn car. So let’s just say that although I’ve been to this club a couple of times, I might have been too distracted to notice what I’m writing about today.

I’ve also had occasion to visit a nightclub during the day for some business reason, when the sun shines its disinfecting light, dispersing the optical illusion brilliantly generated the night before. That’s when a cool “New York-style loft” pipe metamorphoses into an exposed pipe like you’d see in an abandoned building.

The contrast between night and day was never more apparent than when I was driving by the other day, and I saw that, adjacent to one of the top nightclubs in the country, was a fuel storage facility, densely planted with huge containers of gasoline, diesel, liquid gas, and other highly flammable substances.

Each container has a capacity of 8,000 cubic meters or 2.1 million gallons. According to Purdue News, each gallon has the explosive power of up to 83 sticks of dynamite. So the large 8,000 cubic meter container would generate the explosive power of 174 million sticks of dynamite. And they had several of them. To give you an idea of that destructive force, according to the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois, a small atomic bomb, like the one dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, is equivalent to 30,000 sticks of dynamite.

Granted, there are multiple factors that go into maximizing the destructive power of an explosion other than sticks of dynamite equivalency, like pressure, space confinement, and other parameters, but regardless, and in case you think this stuff is theoretical or exaggerated, check out this video for the last time something like this happened.

Right next door to this facility, is one of our best night clubs, with an occupancy of maybe 500-1000 people. Lots of people who are at various stages of inebriation, in a hot, crowded, and confined space, which is an ideal combination for a fistfight. And what happens every ten fistfights in Lebanon? That’s right. They evolve into a firefight, sometimes using automatic weapons, in this case right next to thousands of tons of various types of fuel. Like what happened in kaslik a couple of nights ago when a young man didn’t like the service provided, thus gave them a bad review in the form of emptying a 30-round clip of an automatic assault rifle inside the packed establishment.

The good news is that the night club next to the fuel storage drums has functional smoke detectors … I think.

So the question that comes to mind is how does our government give a license to open something like this in this location? How does a fuel storage facility get located in between two highways, and several office and residential buildings?

Fuel for thought.

Comments 1
  • J. Gordon
    Posted on

    J. Gordon J. Gordon

    Reply Author

    In answer to your question…how does the government…. I offer the idea that your government in Lebanon is several thousand years old and traditions, customs, and the like are nearly impossible to change. The USA is not yet 250 years old and old ideas that benefit a few families or groups that have been around for 500+ years do not exist. Plus women are involved in every layer of government from a local neighborhood to Washington, DC. I recently re-watched a couple of videos of that terrible tragedy that visited Beirut a few months ago and killed many, and blew out every window for miles and I cannot imagine the destruction, it was heartbreaking, horrible, awful, frightening, and has changed the city and citizens for years to come. I am so sorry and saddened, yet not surprised. Old traditions of ignoring the obvious, such as deadly chemicals ignored and stored for years right on the edge of an otherwise thriving busy city continue because no one can stand up and demand change. Traditions and hierarchy of influence and authority take exhausting effort and determination to change, and few have the energy and stamina to see that kind of change through. Its easier to build a new city with the safety of its inhabitants as its top priority than to retrofit and 1000+ year old city. So do that, build a new city with human life as its priority, let the old decay into oblivion, and around the year 3100 it may be resurrected into a safe city to live in. For now, it is not friendly towards life and humanity. Go away and seek actually LIVE a life elsewhere.