Beirut blast impact: TNPCB orders to remove 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored near Chennai

Chennai: Acting close on the heels of a blast in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, caused by ammonium nitrate, that killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds of others, the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has issued to remove 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at Manali near Chennai.

This comes after officials from TNPCB, Customs and Fire and Rescue services departments visited a container freight station at Manali, where the explosive chemical is stored.

The huge consignment was seized in 2015 from a Karur-based company which had permission for fertiliser grade chemical but the 740 tonnes imported in 37 containers from Korea was found to be explosive grade.

Since then it has been lying at Sattva Manali Container Freight Station. The Customs department is now auctioning the cargo, sources said.

Ammonium nitrate is an odourless crystalline substance commonly used in manufacturing agricultural fertiliser. The highly explosive compound is added to improve nitrogen content in fertilisers. When it comes into contact with an open flame or ignition source, it explodes violently.

Manali new town with a population of about 7,000 people and Sadayankuppam village which has a population of 5,000 are located dangerously close to Sattva Container Freight Station (CFS), where 740 metric tonnes of hazardous ammonium nitrate has been stored since September 2015.

The pollution board has directed the Commissioner of Customs to take immediate action to clear the stored ammonium nitrate from the CFS and also asked the Director Industrial Safety and Health to inspect and take the necessary action as per the provisions of Manufacture Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical rules, 1989.

The CFS was also directed to earmark the ammonium nitrate storage area and engage security personnel to safeguard the spot till the clearance of ammonium nitrate stored containers by the Customs Department.