beirut explosion

This is the devastation the Beirut explosion would have wreaked in Toronto

The world is still reeling after the latest unthinkably devastating event that 2020 has brought: a massive explosion in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, which killed at least 137 people and injured somewhere around 5,000 others on Tuesday afternoon.

It is hard to wrap one's mind around the tragic loss of life and the five billion dollars of damage caused by the incident — which is thought to have originated in a warehouse full of highly reactive material —  but it is said to have left a crater 140 m wide with a shockwave that destroyed things more than 10 km in each direction from the city's port.

For perspective, one data illustrator created a map to show what the impact zone would look like if the catastrophe took place at the Toronto Harbourfront — and the destruction extends from the islands up to Yonge and Lawrence, and from Mimico past the Beaches and Danforth Village.

Yesterday, an explosion near a major port in Beirut killed at least 135 people and injured 5,000, with police still digging for survivors. A preliminary investigation suggests the cause may be negligence around the removal of ammonium nitrate, a highly combustible material. . If an explosion of this size happened at Harbourfront in Toronto, it would likely destroy a majority of Centre Island, the Financial District, the Entertainment District, and Yorkville, causing hundreds of death and injuries along the way. . My heart goes out to those in Lebanon, as well as those with impacted friends and family. If you can donate, I’ve read good things about @impact.lebanon , which is currently running an online fundraiser for disaster relief (link in my bio). . #torontoart #digitalart #digitalillustration #datavisualization #datahumanism #datadrawing #datapatterns #dataisbeautiful #datasketch #dataportrait #dataillustration #dataviz #adobeillustrators #datavizsociety #infographic #dataart #infographic

A post shared by Lisa Chen (@data.illustrations) on

In Beirut, the second, much larger blast followed the first, and was heard as far as 230 km across the Mediterranean in Cyprus and felt as strongly as a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. At least 300,000 people have since been displaced as the urban centre assesses the casualties and damages.

In Toronto, this would mean more than 650,000 people in dozens of neighbourhoods could be forced from their homes, with the downtown core essentially obliterated and surrounding neighbourhoods in all directions severely damaged.

Given that Beirut has a far smaller population than Toronto, but also a far smaller land area and higher density, it is difficult to predict how the number of mortalities would compare. But, there would undoubtedly be extreme injuries and loss of life.

The blow to infrastructure would likewise be irrevocable and would cost billions of dollars and years to fix, and would include attractions like the CN Tower, Science Centre and the ROM, as well as countless houses, condos, offices, bars, restaurants, retail stores and other businesses. The city would be rendered unrecognizable.

It would obviously mean absolute, inconceivable disaster for the physical city, its people, its economy and its spirit — which is what the poor people of Beirut are having to face now. 

The Canadian government is among those around the world that are offering their support and donating millions in relief to Beirut this week.

Lead photo by

Raphael.concorde/Wikimedia Commons


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in City

Mail delivery suspended in parts of Toronto after Canada Post depot closes due to COVID

Beer Store donating $2.3M from empty cans to Ontario hospitals and food banks

Ontario announces the largest flu shot campaign in Canada's history

10 secret spots in Kensington Market you might not know about

The CN Tower went gold for Schitt's Creek's Emmy win and cast members went to see it

Ontario confirms highest number of new COVID-19 cases since early May

The TDSB starts online learning in Toronto today but everything is a total mess

The history of the Flatiron Building in Toronto