700 tons of ammonium nitrate stuck in Indian port

A mobile crane prepares to stack a container at Chennai Port, southern India, March 16, 2012. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 August 2020

700 tons of ammonium nitrate stuck in Indian port

  • Indian authorities ordered a review of all potentially hazardous materials in its ports and were alerted to 690 tons of ammonium nitrate in Chennai in southern India
  • Thirty-seven containers of the compound were imported from South Korea in 2015 by an Indian firm for use in fertilizers but were seized after the substance was found to be explosives-grade

NEW DELHI: Almost 700 tons of ammonium nitrate, the substance that caused the mega-explosion in Lebanon, has been stuck in an Indian port since 2015, officials confirmed.
At least 153 people died and more than 5,000 were injured when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate languishing for years in Beirut’s port caused a colossal blast.
Indian authorities afterwards ordered a review of all potentially hazardous materials in its ports and were alerted to 690 tons of ammonium nitrate in Chennai in southern India.
Thirty-seven containers of the compound were imported from South Korea in 2015 by an Indian firm for use in fertilizers but were seized after the substance was found to be explosives-grade.
The local customs department on Thursday sought to allay concerns, saying that the chemicals posed no danger and that an auction process to sell it off was under way.
“The seized chemical is securely stored and the safety of the cargo and public is ensured considering the hazardous nature of the substance,” a statement said.
Ammonium nitrate is an odourless crystalline salt that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
When combined with fuel oils, it creates a potent explosive widely used in the construction industry, but also in homemade bombs such as those used in the 1995 Oklahoma City attack.
Many European Union nations require ammonium nitrate to be mixed with calcium carbonate to make a safer compound.
Industrial disasters are common in India. In May, styrene gas leaked from a factory in southern India, killing 15 people.
In 1984, toxic methyl isocyanate leaked from a pesticide factory in Bhopal, killing 3,500 people — and thousands more in the years afterwards — in one of the worst industrial disasters in history.


Having flu doubles risk of coronavirus death: Study

Updated 22 September 2020

Having flu doubles risk of coronavirus death: Study

  • Heightened danger particularly acute among over-65s
  • WHO identifies flu season as acute threat given COVID-19 spikes

LONDON: Infection with flu and coronavirus at the same time more than doubles a person’s risk of dying than if he or she only had COVID-19, according to research released by England’s highest public health body.

Research conducted by Public Health England (PHE) found that those with flu and COVID-19 were 2.27 times more likely to die than those who just had COVID-19, and 5.92 times more likely to die than those who had neither.

Researchers found that those aged 65 and over were at greatest risk. Most cases of co-infection were in older people, and more than half of them died.

The paper describes the possible impact of COVID-19 alongside seasonal flu as a “major concern.”

Yvonne Doyle, medical director of PHE, said: “If you get both you’re in some serious trouble, and the people who are most likely to get both of these infections may be the very people who can least afford to in terms of their own immune system, or their risk for serious outcomes.”

The paper found that people with flu were less likely to test positive for COVID-19, but Doyle said this should not be taken as a reassurance.

Some countries in Asia have pre-emptively rolled out early and more aggressive flu vaccination programs this year to prevent complications caused by co-infection.

But others, such as Poland, have been struggling to secure flu vaccines due to shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The upcoming flu season has been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a particularly acute threat, given that many parts of the world are already experiencing a spike in COVID-19 infections.

“We’re starting to see worrying trends in some countries,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for COVID-19. “We’re seeing increases in hospitalizations, in intensive care units … That’s worrying because we haven’t seen the flu season yet.”