Reports of a “leak” from a “radioactive” consignment at the cargo terminal of Delhi International Airport caused a scare and temporarily disrupted the cargo operations at the airport on Friday morning. The “leak” was reportedly detected from a consignment of Liquid Sodium Iodide, which arrived on a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul.
However, a Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) spokesperson in the evening said there was no such leak at the cargo terminal. “After an extensive assessment, Atomic Energy regulatory Board (AERB) has confirmed that there was no leak of any radioactive substance in the shipments at Delhi Airport. Based on the clearance from the AERB, import operations have resumed. All other operations at the airport continue to be normal and were never interrupted,” the spokesperson said.
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While import operations at one of the two cargo terminals were temporarily stopped, passenger movement was not directly disrupted because of the incident, officials said.
The emergency machinery, sources said, was pressed into action only after cargo personnel made a call on the emergency number for Nepal earthquake relief.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel were rushed in and the situation was brought under control within hours.
Sources said a cargo handler noticed a “sticky substance” oozing out of a packet at the cargo terminal. “His eyes started watering and he informed the superiors,” an official said.
It was soon discovered that it was a chemical substance and needed expert handling. “Around 10.30 am, the Nepal Earthquake Control Room, 1078, received a call. It was manned by Kshitij Nanda, a civil defence volunteer. The caller asked for someone capable of handling chemical leaks. Nanda, trained only to deal with earthquake-related queries, informed his seniors and by 10.50 am, members of NDRF and AERB rushed to the terminal,” Lt Col Sanjay Sehgal, a civil defence personnel, said.
Officials who were directly involved in the operation said the responsibility of a leak lies with the agency that “probably carelessly packaged the substance”.
Ali Genç of Turkish Airlines (Media relations) said, “The cargo package containing medical material carried by Turkish Airlines TK716 has been examined by the official authorities in Delhi on suspicion of radioactive leak due to the wetness seen on a package. On being informed of the situation, Turkish Airlines relevant cargo and technical teams took necessary steps but no evidence of a radioactive leak was detected.”
3 go to AIIMS to get checked for exposure
Three patients who came to AIIMS to get themselves checked for symptoms of ‘radioactive exposure’ on Friday were examined and allowed to go home within a few hours. Rama Kant (28) and Ranveer Singh (50) came around 10.30 am complaining of eye and skin irritation. Subhash Chandra (42) came around 6 pm with similar complaints.
“The patients were examined and no symptoms indicative of radioactive exposure were found. We explained to them that they were at absolutely no risk. They did did not require treatment and could go home ,” AIIMS spokesperson Dr Amit Gupta said.