Chemical linked to Beirut mega-explosion not stored in Taranaki

Beirut blast triggers concern over explosives in India

Ammonium nitrate, which is widely used in fertilizers and explosives has been in the news recently, after the Lebanese government pointed out that it was 2,700 tons of the same chemical which caused a massive explosion at the Beirut port on August 4 evening.

The chemical worth Rs 1.80 crore was seized from a Tamil Nadu-based importer in 2015, who had allegedly declared it as fertiliser grade although it was an explosive grade, a Customs official said.

Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) chief S Ramadoss claimed in a tweet that 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was lying at Chennai port and demanded that chemical be disposed of as early as possible to avoid an incident like the one in Lebanon.

He described as "shocking" reports that 740 tons of ammonium nitrate has been stored in a warehouse near the Chennai port.

Meanwhile, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) also directed customs and field formations to immediately verify and confirm within 48 hours that any hazardous and explosive material lying in warehouses and ports across the country meets all safety and fire standards and presents no danger to life and property.

"This ammunition is the cause of the biggest explosion in Lebanon". With rapid detonation, chemical reaction can occur that converts ammonium nitrate to nitrogen and oxygen gas and water vapor. Dozens of people are missing and up to 250,000 are without habitable homes.

"What has occurred in Beirut is an absolute tragedy and is a reminder that we need to be vigilant in all aspects of safety", Roper said.

"We checked the storage situation, and everything is correct".

Roper said all parties conducting business at the port were required to meet those regulations, which included controls such as the adequate separation of unsafe goods.

"Around 36 containers, each with around 20 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, have been shifted long time ago and now they are under the Customs Department's control", an officer from the Public Relations Department said.

In 1947, the worst industrial accident in United States history that killed 581 people when a ship in the harbor of Texas City, Texas, carrying approximately 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire.

Ammonium nitrate is an odourless crystalline salt that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.



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