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Ammonium nitrate near Chennai gets ready to be moved out

Ammonium nitrate near Chennai gets ready to be moved out
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Ammonium nitrate near Chennai gets ready to be moved out

Highlights

The 740-tonne ammonium nitrate stored near Chennai is being moved to the premises of a Hyderabad-based buyer, with the process of splitting it into 10 container sets and making arrangements for road transport already underway, said sources aware of plans for the explosive stash after it came to be viewed with extreme caution following the Beirut blast last week.

Chennai: The 740-tonne ammonium nitrate stored near Chennai is being moved to the premises of a Hyderabad-based buyer, with the process of splitting it into 10 container sets and making arrangements for road transport already underway, said sources aware of plans for the explosive stash after it came to be viewed with extreme caution following the Beirut blast last week.

The customs department has identified a buyer who is taking possession of the chemical. Arrangements have been made with the help of highway authorities and pollution control board officials to ensure that the transport takes place seamlessly. According to a Customs document, only 697 tonnes of the Ammonium Nitrate was put on auction by the department, leading to questions over the remaining of the 740-tonne consignment.

Petroleum, Explosives, Safety Organisation (PESO) officials are currently inspecting the site in North Chennai. The officials want to ensure all safety checks are done before the consignment is moved to the neighbouring state.

An import consignment of the Karur-based Amman Chemicals was seized at the Chennai Port after its application for a key licence was rejected. It was seized in November 2015 and the company was later engaged in a legal battle to continue its business.

A panel consisting of environmental engineers and senior police officers visited the Container Freight Station operated by company Sattva in Tiruvottiyur after the Beirut blast. The multi-disciplinary panel tasked with inspecting the consignment off Chennai had recommended that the Customs Department "clear" the stock from the warehouse, read an August 6 report by the panel.

According to the report, the customs department had already begun the process of allowing bids for the Ammonium Nitrate and beneficiaries would be shortlisted. The report submitted by TNPCB stated that close to 12,000 people live closer to the place where 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate is stored.

"The nearest habitations are namely Manali new town at a distance of 700m in the northern direction with a population of about 7,000 and Sadayankuppam village at a distance of 1500m in the eastern direction with a population of about 5,000," the report said.

The devastation at a port in Beirut in Lebanon due to inadequately secured ammonium nitrate has set off alarm bells in Chennai. After news emerged that the port at North Chennai too has stores of nearly 740 tons of the same highly inflammable chemical, pressure is building on the Tamil Nadu government to act soon.

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