"If an accident can happen in Beirut it can happen here." That was how Mayfield resident John L Hayes reacted after hearing news of the horrific ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut.
Mr Hayes belongs to one of several Newcastle community groups that have expressed concern about the large quantities of the explosive that is stored around Newcastle within close proximity to homes.
The Beirut explosion, which killed hundreds and injured more than 3000 people, was sparked by a fire at a warehouse containing 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
Similar quantities of the explosive are stored at facilities in Newcastle.
Stockton Community Action Group member and engineer Keith Craig said his group had long-held concerns about the storage of ammonium nitrate at Kooragang Island.
"The Orica factory should be closed down and built closer to coal mines away from communities," he said.
"A fire coming in contact with organic material and other accidents can cause a huge explosion that would kill and injure many people across Newcastle and it's time such dangerous industries were located in appropriate locations."
The storage and transportation of ammonium nitrate is overseen by the Environment Protection Authority.
Mr Richards, who managed and designed blasting operations for Orica and BHP, said there were two important parallels between the Texas disaster and the storage of ammonia nitrates at Kooragang.
''Firstly, there is the danger of having ammonia nitrate products anywhere within the proximity of residential areas,'' Mr Richards said.
Secondly, there was the risk for catastrophic consequences in the event of an explosion.
''However small the risk may be, the consequences are catastrophic when you are dealing with something designed to turn solid iron mountains into mounds of rubble to extract it,'' he said.
Mr Hayes recalled a conversation with Mr Richards where they discussed the potential impact of an explosion on Kooragang Island.
"He told me that if he was commissioned to blow up all of the ammonium nitrate on Kooragang Island he would have his blast crew positioned on the other side of Charlestown," he said.
"We are on a floodplain here and the blast would flatten everything for miles around."