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German Coronavirus Evacuee Describes Life in Quarantine
By Rebecca Staudenmaier
Yannik Weis was studying abroad in the Chinese city of Wuhan when a deadly new type of coronavirus broke out. He became one of over 100 people Germany evacuated from the area over the weekend.
Although he and many other German evacuees are feeling healthy and in good spirits, Weis told DW on Monday that coming back to Germany in light of the outbreak had been "stressful."
He and 114 other evacuees are being kept in quarantine at a military base in the town of Germersheim, which is 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Frankfurt. Weis said that they've been treated well at the base and that there "is a lot of medical support."
"If we leave our rooms, we have to wear a mask. Of course we are allowed to go outside to get some fresh air, but all the time we have to wear masks," Weis said.
Two of the German evacuees who were on the flight with Weis ended up testing positive for the virus and are currently being treated at a hospital in Frankfurt.
"Everybody in the airplane wore masks all the time. So I think the risk of getting infected there was very very small," Weis said.
He added that he thinks the quarantine is a necessary step in order to stop possible spread of the outbreak.
Empty Streets 'but No Panic' in Wuhan
Prior to the outbreak and the subsequent orders to remain in doors, Weis said the busy metropolis of Wuhan was "full of life."
"Everything was full of people. And suddenly after the outbreak ... the streets were empty," Weis noted.
He added that, despite the sudden shift in daily life in the city, people reacted calmly to the changes.
"Everyone was very silent and calm, but there was definitely no panic," he said.
There have been 10 confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany so far, most of which are based in the southern state of Bavaria.
China has effectively shut down the city of Wuhan and many surrounding provinces and municipalities in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.
At least 361 people have died from the coronavirus so far, surpassing the SARS epidemic that left 249 dead between 2002 and 2003.
More than 17,000 people in China are currently infected, with more than 24 countries also reporting cases.
Reposted with permission from DW.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Alexander Freund
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab says he believes Tuesday's explosion in Beirut could have been caused by large quantities of ammonium nitrate stored in the port.
What Is Ammonium Nitrate?<p>Ammonium nitrate is a white crystalline salt that can be fairly cheaply produced from ammonia and nitric acid. It is soluble and often used as fertilizer, as nitrogen is needed for healthy plant development.</p><p>Ammonium nitrate in its pure form is not dangerous. It is, however, heat sensitive. At 32.2 degrees Celsius (89.96 degrees Fahrenheit), ammonium nitrate changes its atomic structure, which in turn changes its chemical properties.</p><p>When large quantities of ammonium nitrate are stored in one place, heat is generated. If the amount is sufficiently vast, it can cause the chemical to ignite. Once a temperature of 170 C is reached, ammonium nitrate starts breaking down, emitting nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas. Any sudden ignition causes ammonium nitrate to decompose directly into water, nitrogen and oxygen, which explains the enormous explosive power of the salt.</p>
Deadly Disasters<p>As ammonium nitrate is a highly explosive chemical, many countries strictly regulate its use. Over the past 100 years, there have been several disasters involving the chemical.</p><p>In 1921, for example, a massive blast occurred at a BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. About 400 metric tons of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate exploded, killing 559 people and injuring 1,977. The plant was largely destroyed in the blast, which could be heard as far away as Munich, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) distant.</p><p>In 2015, explosions caused by ammonium nitrate ripped through the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/china-convicts-dozens-for-last-years-giant-explosions-in-tianjin/a-36324321" target="_blank">Chinese port city of Tianjin</a>. Eight hundred metric tons of the chemical were said to have been stored along with other substances in a warehouse for hazardous materials. The blasts killed 173 people and destroyed an entire city district.</p><p>Two years earlier, in 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company site in Texas, killing 14 people. And in 2001, 31 people died in Toulouse, France, in an explosion caused by the chemical.</p>
Terrorist Favorite<p>In Germany, the purchase and use of ammonium nitrate is regulated by the explosives act. This is because the cheap, highly explosive and relatively easily obtainable material has in the past been used by terrorists to carry out attacks.</p><p>For example, in 1995, U.S. conspiracy theorist and gun enthusiast Timothy McVeigh used a mixture of ammonium nitrate and other substances to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik also used ammonium nitrate in a car bomb attack in Oslo in 2011.</p>
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