A group of Forensic Architecture researchers released a 15-minute video to report on how the explosion of a Beirut Port warehouse transpired, 3 months ago. As the outcome of the research, the video gives a full understanding of why and how the explosion occurred, as well as providing information on how to prevent such incidents from happening again.
Actually, a group of Mada Masr’s journalists decided to invite the Forensic Architecture team to help them in conducting a proper investigation of the horrific explosion incident. Mainly because they were frustrated with the way various government agencies are carrying out the investigations,
Led by Samaneh Moafi, the FA researchers used various photos and videos they collected from various social media sites. They also obtained leaked photos that came from inside the warehouse, where the huge pile of ammonium nitrate was kept. Doing so enabled them to recreate the events, by using 3D models of how the explosion began, which resulted in the death of more than 200 people and caused injury to 6,500 others during the blast in August 4.
Almost 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored for years in the government’s port warehouse, despite being located near densely populated neighborhoods. While the chemicals were seized from a ship headed for Mozambique, the warnings about the hazards posed by the seized chemical were likewise ignored for years.
Recreating the Explosion of the Beirut Explosion Through 3D Models
In utilizing visual markers to pinpoint areas and in computing the cone of vision of a camera, the FA researchers were able to determine the earliest indication of a smoke plume. According to the team of researchers, smoke plumes are known to constantly change and at every instant take on different forms. This knowledge helped them combine other videos that do not have a time stamp.
Through all the videos and images they collected from different angles and locations, the forensic team were able to confirm that the warehouse was indeed filled with ammonium nitrate and other explosive materials. What made the condition worse is that the the ammonium nitrate was contaminated, as everything inside the warehouse was poorly stored in manners that violated regulations, as they were similar to creating a makeshift bomb.
Today, there’s a change on how social media is being perceived, departing from the bad reputation earned from numerous negative criticisms. The FA research demonstrated the significant value of information that can be gathered through the internet and across social media networks. They pointed to a single photo from Twitter that supplied enough info for them to create a 3D model and to establish the timeline of the explosion.
About Forensic Architecture
In the year 2010, Eyal Weizman established a multifaceted research group based in the University of London. Since then, they have investigated various human rights violations worldwide, involving corporations, militaries, police, and governments.
They visualized their cases through virtual reality, by creating 3D animations and physical models of the setting. All of their sources are available online, usually from footage and photographs taken and shared by ordinary people.
Most of the FA’s members have educational background in architecture. According to Samaneh Moafi, what they create is known as architectural resource.