New Delhi: Sources confirmed that Indian customs authorities have seized a container carrying 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, the chemical that caused this week’s deadly blast in Lebanon’s capital Beirut.
While officials at the Chennai port said that the substance was not stored on the premises, Customs officials, on the other hand, informed that the chemical was imported by a Karur-based firm in 2015 and since the company did not have a license, the material was seized and stored in 37 containers at a facility in Manali.
Nearly 150 people were killed and more than 5,000 were injured when a large stock of the chemical exploded at Beirut’s port on Tuesday. Dozens of people are still missing and up to 250,000 are without habitable homes.
Customs authorities in the south Indian port city of Chennai said a large consignment of the chemical had been stored at a site about 20 km from the city.
In a statement, they said, “The seized cargo is securely stored and safety of the cargo and public is ensured considering the hazardous nature of the cargo”.
There is no residential area within 2 km of the freight station where the consignment has been stored. Ammonium nitrate is used to make fertilizers and explosives. The chemical is mainly used by the quarrying industry.
- Govindarajan, chief operating officer of the Chennai-based Tirwin Management Services (P) Ltd., involved in training persons to safely handle dangerous cargo, said that there should be a systematic way of auditing to ensure that such chemicals are not stored for a long time.
He added “If it is stored for a period, then at least the authorities should ensure that they are not stored in a congested area. The audit should monitor the safety precautions and carry out regular inspections to see how they are stored and their condition.”