How powerful was the Beirut blast?

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: Reuters

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 14 Aug 2020

Credit: Marco Hernandez, Simon Scarr

Project description:

The massive warehouse explosion that sent a devastating blast wave across Beirut could be one of the strongest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, experts say. The explosion is estimated to be the equivalent of 200 to 300 tons of high explosives. Reuters contextualized these estimates to see what they look like compared to other accidental explosions and conventional weapons.

Impact reached:

The project was shared widely on social media platforms and garnered a high readership. It was used widely to put the explosion into perspective.

Techniques/technologies used:

This was a fast moving story so we quickly got to work by researching comparative explosions and working out the data from small weapons all the way up to the Hiroshima nuclear bombing. From there we were able to visualise the scaled squares or diamonds and place them out in a long format with annotation and illustrations built in Adobe iIllustrator. We then placed the ai2html file in a long HTML page and added the other elements.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The research was challenging here as there was no single comparative source so the team split up to research each weapon and historic explosion individually. Sourcing was also difficult to find on some of the older events but eventually we were able to build up the full picture.

What can others learn from this project?

Portraying scale can be an effective technique in visual storytelling. Sometimes a simple idea, executed well can tell a powerful story. 

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