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Risk mitigation: 10 containers of ammonium nitrate moved out of city
As many as 10 containers carrying 181.76 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, the chemical behind Beirut blast, moved out to Hyderabad from a Container Freight Station (CFS) in Manali under the supervision of senior officials from PESO and city police on Sunday afternoon, a day earlier than expected.
The 181.76 tonnes of chemical shifted is part of 697 tonnes of ammonium nitrate auctioned by the Customs. Though the Customs officials had earlier last week claimed that they were trying to dispose of 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate seized from Karur based firm in 2015 — when it was imported without valid document via Chennai port — the auction papers accessed by this newspaper showed that the department had auctioned only 697 tonnes.
Though there is no official explanation about the status of 43 tonnes (43,000 kg) of missing chemical, some officials were claiming that it got spoilt in 2015 Chennai floods.
This newspaper on August 6 had carried a story about the 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a private CFS after the blast at an ammonium nitrate warehouse in Beirut, a port city in Lebanon, killing over 100 people. Following the report by DT Next, officials from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services, Petroleum Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) and city police inspected the CFS facility.
Contradicting the claim of Customs department that the ammonium nitrate stored is safe and secure and no residents are staying within 2 km of the vicinity of the CFS, the Pollution Control Board pointed out that 12,000 residents are living in 1.5 km vicinity of the CFS and asked the Customs department to shift the explosive chemicals from the CFS as early as possible. Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs had also asked their officials to make sure the safety and security of chemicals stored in CFSs across the country.
During the last couple of days, the Customs had finalised a buyer from Hyderabad and despatched the first 10 containers on Sunday. The rest will be despatched this week. It will take nearly 48 hours for the containers to reach Hyderabad as the drivers have to follow the speed limit while transporting explosive grade chemicals.