Dubai: The aftershocks of the catastrophic explosion in Beirut, Lebanon on August 4 were felt as far as Chennai in southern India when authorities in the city acted swiftly to move 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate out of storage on the outskirts of the city.
The consignment was seized some five years ago and was kept in 37 containers in the container freight station in Manali in North Chennai, with around 12,000 people living in the vicinity. However, after the blast that shook the Lebanese capital, which killed at least 158 people and rendered more than 300,000 homeless, the authorities acted swiftly to e-auction off the consignment after police had asked the customs department to move it out of the location.
A blast at the container storage location in Manali could have been disastrous as companies like Indian Oil Corporation and Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited are located within a 5km radius.
Chennai customs had seized the 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate due to import policy restrictions prescribed by the Central government in 2015. About 697 tonnes of the chemical is now being shipped to premises of a Hyderabad-based firm with extreme precautions being taken during the transfer. Efforts are afoot to ensure there will be minimal traffic during the transportation of the consignment.
However, an unnamed source speaking to The Hindu newspaper eased people’s nerves, saying, “There is no need to panic”.
“The chemical is predominantly used in agriculture. Safety measures would be undertaken to make sure that there is no slip-up anywhere. Ammonium nitrate is imported legally and transported regularly among ports for various requirements,” the source said.