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A PICTURE has emerged allegedly showing bags of ammonium nitrate stacked up in the warehouse that exploded in Beirut killing at least 135 people.

Lebanese authorities have placed port officials under house arrest and reports have emerged the explosive stash was seized from a mysterious Russian businessman.

⚠️ Read our Beirut live blog for the latest news & updates

12Pictures allegedly showing ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut's dockside Warehouse 12Credit: @Dalatrm 12The explosion was one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts of all timeCredit: Triangle News 12A section of Beirut's port was completely blown apart in the explosionCredit: @rabzthecopter/Rabz the copter

Questions are being asked as to how such as disaster could be allowed to happen as officials blamed the explosion of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse.

Lebanon's leaders have vowed those responsible will "pay the price" after the “nuclear-like” explosion left 300,000 people homeless.

Port officials have however pointed the finger at the government as they claimed to have repeatedly warned the authorities of the dangerous cargo at Warehouse 12.

The startling photo appears to show the storage facility shoddily packed with one ton bags of the explosive - which is known to be used by terrorists in homemade bombs.

Investigative website Bellingcat analysed the photo and said it does appear to match the dock warehouse which exploded yesterday afternoon.

BBC journalist Riam Dalati also tweeted a copy of the photo, saying it appears to show workers stacking the salvaged ammonium nitrate at Warehouse 12.

At least 5,000 people were injured in yesterday's blast which flattened buildings, ripped people's clothes from their bodies and damaged properties up to six miles away.

The explosion was so large it could be heard 110 miles across the sea in Cyprus.

It has emerged the powder-keg chemicals was shipped by Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin who has been accused of abandoning it in Beirut.

The killer cargo was confiscated in 2014 from the Moldovan-flagged ship Rhosus en route from Batumi in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia to Mozambique

It had stopped due to “a malfunction” in Beirut where sailors were forced to stay on board to ensure its safety.

Sailors protested that Grechushkin claimed he had gone bankrupt and "abandoned the ship" - going on hunger strike before finally being allowed to go ashore.

12Igor Grechushkin has been accused of abandoning the chemical in BeirutCredit: Will Stewart 12Igor Grechushkin's wife IrinaCredit: Will Stewart 12Sailors beg for help in Beirut after allegedly being abandoned by Igor Grechushkin in 2014Credit: Will Stewart 12The ship Rhosus which allegedly brought the cargo to BeirutCredit: Will Stewart

Grechushkin was said to have paid a “huge penalty” for transporting the cargo without authority which led to him going bust - later moving to Cyprus with his wife Irina.

Neither the businessman nor his family have yet commented on the explosion, which had one fifth the power of a nuclear bomb.

The Russian captain of the ship Boris Prokoshev, now 70, warned at the time of the deadly nature of the cargo.

He said: “The vessel’s owner abandoned it and we were abandoned too.

"We were living on a powder keg for ten months without being paid."

Anger is mounting as Lebanon's government and customs officials are point fingers at each other as to who is the blame for the monstrous explosion.

Reportedly the blast is believed to have been sparked when a reckless welder caused a fire at nearby Warehouse 9 - which then spread to the explosive Warehouse 12.

12The explosion could be heard 110 miles away in CyprusCredit: Reuters
What is ammonium nitrate?

Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound which is predominantly used in agriculture as a fertiliser - ut is also higling explosive.

It is a white crystalline solid and is highly soluble in water - with the chemical formula NH₄NO₃.

The chemical is applied in granule form into the soil and quickly dissolves under moisture, allowing nitrogen to be released.

Another use of ammonium nitrate is in the food industry where it is used as a nutrient in producing antibiotics and yeast.

In most countries, it is used to make explosives for mining, quarrying and civil construction because of its low cost and ready availability.

It has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the last three decades, including the explosion at a chemical plant in Toulouse, France, in 2001 that killed 31 people.

Ammonium nitrate was also used to create the explosives used in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings.

By itself, ammonium nitrate is not regarded as dangerous but under certain conditions, it can become deadly.

The chemical is classified as an “energetic material” meaning that it produces heat as it decomposes.

If there is a significant amount of ammonium nitrate it can generate enough heat to catch fire and continue to burn eventually causing an explosion. 

President Michel Aoun said the government was "determined to investigate and expose what happened as soon as possible, to hold the responsible and the negligent accountable."

Sources close to the investigation blamed the incident on "inaction and negligence", saying "nothing was done" by committees and judges involved in removing the explosives.

The cabinet ordered port officials involved in storing or guarding the material since 2014 to be put under house arrest.

Badri Daher, Director General of Lebanese Customs, told broadcaster LBCI that customs had sent six documents to the judiciary warning that the material posed a danger.

He said: "We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why."

12

Another source close to a port employee said a team that inspected the ammonium nitrate six months ago warned that if it was not moved it would "blow up all of Beirut".

Two documents revealed that Lebanese Customs had asked the judiciary in 2016 and 2017 to ask the "concerned maritime agency" to re-export or approve the sale of the ammonium nitrate.

One of the documents cited similar requests in 2014 and 2015 - suggesting repeated warnings about the danger were overlooked by the authorities.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed those responsible will "pay the price" as rescue operations continue in Beirut.

International aid is being mobilised across the world to help support the victims and search for those potentially still trapped beneath the rubble.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Lebanese prime minister told him there would be a "full, thorough and rigorous investigation to get to the truth.

He said: "I think the people of the Lebanon deserve no less - and that there will be full accountability."

Mr Raab added the the details of Brits caught up in the Beirut blast was still being established - with a number known to have been injured.

HMS Enterprise will carry out survey work in the port to establish the extent of the damage.

British engineering experts have found the blast was "unquestionably" one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever to take place.

A team from the University of Sheffield has calculated the strength of the blast based on the videos and photographs of the catastrophe.

They believe the explosion was the equivalent of 1,000 to 1,500 tonnes of TNT.

12Lebanon's President Michel Aoun visits the site of the massive explosionCredit: AFP or licensors 12Beirut has been devastated by the blast that killed 135 peopleCredit: AFP or licensors 12A survivor is taken out of the rubble after the massive explosion in BeirutCredit: AP:Associated Press

As many as 300,000 people may have been left homeless, Beirut's governor Marwan Aboud said, with many buildings reduced to an uninhabitable mess of rubble and glass.

There are concerns of food shortages and unrest in the city, with the blast compounding anger stemming from a severe economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

Many nations have stepped up to offer aid alongside Britain, including France, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Russia, the Czech Republic, Iran and the US as the world mourns the disaster.

US Pentagon sources also described the blast as a tragic accident - but President Donald Trump said he believed it was caused by “a bomb".

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Trump said his forces stood ready to assist after the "terrible attack" claiming his security advisors “seem to think it was an attack, a bomb of some kind."

US defence officials later contradicted Trump and former White House aides claimed his remarks were "wildly irresponsible".

The Foreign Office confirmed several staff based at the embassy more than three miles from the port needed hospital treatment but declined to give any details.

A spokesman said: “All Embassy staff are accounted for. A small number have sustained non- life-threatening injuries and where necessary are receiving medical attention.”

Beirut explosion: a bride poses before blast goes off forcing crowd to run for cover

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Inside the underground torture chamber where boy, 7, ‘was imprisoned for 52 days by Russian paedophile’

TERRIFYING images have emerged of an underground cell where a seven-year-old Russian boy was allegedly held hostage by a suspected paedophile for 52 days. 

The vulnerable child was allegedly kidnapped as he got off a school bus by Dmitry Kopylov who is then said to have sexually abused him in a grim basement.

9The vulnerable boy was allegedly held hostage for 52 days in RussiaCredit: Telegram

The boy was rescued from his tortuous ordeal and reunited with his parents after a tip off by Interpol based on intelligence from the West. 

Russian special forces cut through a steel door and broke a window to enter the lair where he was being held. 

The “brainwashed” boy “laughed with joy” when they entered but later broke down in tears, it is reported.

Kopylov, 26, was snared after allegedly boasting about holding the boy in chats between paedophiles on the dark web. 

Now new images show the chilling low-ceilinged basement with bare walls  where the boy was imprisoned. 

9Chilling images show the stark basement where they boy was keptCredit: Social media 9A hatch door carved out of concrete led down to the grim cellarCredit: Social media 9The stark room was said to look like a prison cellCredit: Social media

The spooky basement - with a jail-style bed and a heater - was found beneath Kopylov’s house in Makarikha, around 185 miles from Moscow.

A hatch door led to an even lower level - said to be sound insulated - and the alleged kidnapper lived upstairs.

When heavily armed officers stormed the building the suspect was sitting with the boy on a sofa. 

Footage showed Kopylov being held by special forces officers at the scene.

While still in the hell hole, the boy is heard berating the officers for smashing the window when they broke in. 

The seven year old said: “You shouldn't have broken this window.”

The officer told him not to worry since he would soon be going back to his mother and father. 

9The boy was later reunited with his overjoyed parentsCredit: Liza Alert 9The moment armed cops stormed the buildingCredit: Interior Ministry 9Dmitry Kopylov, 26, appears in a cage at courtCredit: Oleg Zurman/Mediazona

The policeman said:  “Do you want to come back here later? Well, if you want to come back, you will.  Otherwise, of course, it's better not to.”

Sources said that the boy had been “brainwashed” by his abductor. 

A huge search involving thousands of police, army and volunteers had sought to find the boy. 

There were acute fears locally that he had been killed -  but his parents always maintained hope he would be found alive. 

Computer geek Kopylov, from Suzdal,  is the son of an electrician and a kindergarten teacher, both now dead. 

He had bought the house and was carrying out extensive renovations, including the construction of the underground bunker. 

9Computer geek Kopylov was taken into custody by special forcesCredit: 112 9Kopylov's ramshackle home in Makarikha, RussiaCredit: Vesti.ru

Colonel Irina Volk, of the Russian Interior Ministry, said the tip about the boy had been received “from foreign colleagues through Interpol channels”.

The boy’s whereabouts had become clear from “publications in the shadow segment of the Internet”, she said. 

It is believed US specialists were crucial in establishing the identity of the alleged paedophile with help from agencies in other countries. 

Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock said: “A young boy is back where he belongs - with his family - thanks to dedicated specialist officers and swift action by authorities around the world.”

But he warned:  “While we’re truly delighted that this story has a safe ending, many children are still out there awaiting rescue.”

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The child, rescued last week, underwent medical checks before going home to his parents and he is now receiving “strong psychological help”, it was revealed.

The boy’s father said: "He was very happy to see his mother. He hugged and kissed her. We are overwhelmed with feelings… 

“It is an explosion of emotion and relief that the ordeal is over. Finally he is found.”

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