In the wake of the devastating Beirut blast, Indian authorities are on alert over the reported presence of 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in a customs warehouse in Chennai port for nearly five years.
The issue of the reported presence of ammonium nitrate in the warehouse in Chennai port was flagged by a politician of Tamil Nadu, S Ramadoss, on Thursday, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
He tweeted urging the government to take immediate steps to safely dispose of the seized explosive substance to avert the possibility of a Beirut-like incident.
Voicing concern over the presence of the chemical kept in containers at a freight station since 2015, Ramadoss, who founded regional party Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), said it poses potential risk.
"There is a risk of a similar explosion due to ammonium nitrate in the Chennai warehouse. To prevent this, the ammonium nitrate explosive substance in the warehouse should be safely disposed of and used for other purposes such as composting," he said in the tweet.
In another tweet he said, "The news that 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate explosive material have been stored in a warehouse near the Chennai port for five years is very shocking. This chemical substance is the cause of the biggest explosion in Lebanon!"
Reports in a section of the Indian media claimed the ammonium nitrate stored in 37 containers in the city was imported by a firm and seized by customs officials as it was brought without obtaining licence and permission in 2015.
The reports said the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has "urgently directed" customs 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."
A senior Customs official said "ways to shift out the ammonium nitrate at the earliest" are being explored.
In Beirut, an estimated 2,750-tonne stockpile of ammonium nitrate, stored reportedly for six years in a port warehouse, blew up killing over 100, and injuring over 5,000.