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Chennai: Two days after unsafely stored ammonium nitrate killed at least 135 people and injured thousands in Beirut, serious concerns have been raised about nearly 700 tonnes of the explosive chemical that has remained in storage for years under the custody of the Customs Department, outside Tamil Nadu capital Chennai.

Officials said this large consignment, meant to be sent to a group in the fireworks capital of India – Sivakasi – was seized at the Chennai port in 2015 and has been lying there ever since.

Chennai port officials have said the pile of explosives is no longer stored in the harbor. “Around 36 containers, each with around 20 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, have been shifted long time ago and now they are under the Customs Department’s control,” an officer from the Public Relations Department said.

“We have 697 tonnes of ammonium nitrate at the Sattva container depot. We are working to dispose them, and shall give all the details soon,” a senior Customs Department Officer told

The officer also denies delay in disposal. “The matter went to court, which gave its ruling in November last year. We are in the advanced stages of an e-auction (for the chemical),” he added.

Citing the deadly Beirut tragedy, PMK Chief Dr Ramadoss, ally of the ruling AIADMK, demanded safe disposal of the explosive chemical and its safe use in making other products.

“There is a risk of a similar explosion. To avert that the explosives ought to be disposed safely and used for manufacture of fertiliser and other needs,” he tweeted today.

About 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored in a Beirut port warehouse that exploded Tuesday, devastating large parts of the Lebanese capital. Early investigations blamed negligence for the explosion at the Beirut port.


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