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Was the blast at the Turkish port of Derince caused by a shipment of weapons meant for Ukraine?

FILE - The cargo ship Polarnet, arrives to Derince port in the Gulf of Izmit, Turkey, on Aug. 8, 2022
FILE - The cargo ship Polarnet, arrives to Derince port in the Gulf of Izmit, Turkey, on Aug. 8, 2022 Copyright Khalil Hamra/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Khalil Hamra/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Sophia Khatsenkova
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Kremlin propagandists were quick to jump on the accident claiming the explosion was caused by weapons destined for Ukraine. But neither the local authorities nor the media reported any presence of military equipment on site.

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On 7 August, a blast rocked grain silos near the port of Derince in western Turkey. The explosion killed one person and injured at least 12 more. 

A few days later, Russian propagandists started spreading allegations that the explosion was caused by a shipment of weapons meant to be transferred to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

"Very strange - after all, no explosive fuels or fertilizers were loaded on this ship. Or maybe there was not only grain but also deadly "toys" for the Armed Forces of Ukraine?," implied one pro-Moscow Telegram account.

The explosion occurred in the area where ships are loaded with grain in elevators controlled by the Turkish Grain Council.

Except that neither the Turkish authorities nor the media had found any presence of military equipment on the site of the explosion. 

The governor of Kocaeli, where the port is located announced: “Initial evaluations show that an explosion occurred due to wheat dust compression during the transfer of wheat from a ship to the silo… But we are investigating every possible reason."

The Turkish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Ibrahim Yumaklı also commented on the incident, stating: “At the moment, we assess that the explosion occurred due to technical consequences caused by dust compression [...] The prosecutor's office and other units are conducting the necessary investigations. After everything is done, we will share the results with the public.”

This chemical reaction is nothing out of the ordinary. According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration: “Any combustible material can burn rapidly when in a finely divided form. If such dust is suspended in the air in the right concentration, under certain conditions, it can become explosible. Such as for example sugar and grain."

In the pages of the Turkish daily Hurriyet, a chemical engineer explains this phenomenon in more detail: "When the wheat is transported from the silo to the ship, it is compressed. However, any organic substance is highly flammable and becomes explosive when it turns to dust." 

That means that if the dust is in "suspension, in a closed place, such as a container or a silo and it encounters a source of ignition, in particular a spark of mechanical origin," that’s enough to cause a big blast. 

Similar incidents due to grain dust have been documented before including one in 1998 in Kansas, US.

Multiple explosions occurred in what is considered the world's largest grain elevator, killing seven people. 

In Europe, the last major grain dust explosion happened in Blaye, France in 1997, killing 11 people.

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