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  Radioactive ‘leak’ sets off panic, chaos at IGI Airport

Radioactive ‘leak’ sets off panic, chaos at IGI Airport

Published : Oct 10, 2016, 2:18 am IST
Updated : Oct 10, 2016, 2:18 am IST

Emergency workers sealed off a part of New Delhi’s international airport amid widespread panic on Sunday morning after officials suspected a consignment containing radioactive material had leaked.

Emergency officials investigate the suspected leak. (Photo: PTI)
 Emergency officials investigate the suspected leak. (Photo: PTI)

Emergency workers sealed off a part of New Delhi’s international airport amid widespread panic on Sunday morning after officials suspected a consignment containing radioactive material had leaked. The “radiological emergency” was withdrawn after a little over three hours as the radioactivity was found within permissible limits

Teams from Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) rushed to the cargo terminal of the IGI Airport, about a kilometre-and-a-half from the passenger area.

Authorities cleared the cargo area and isolated cartons containing nuclear drugs to cure cancer to investigate the suspected leak. No flight operations were affected. Experts later found an organic liquid from another consignment had spilled over the nuclear medicine cartons. The shipment had arrived in an Air France plane from Paris and was meant for a private hospital in Delhi.

In 2010, a scrapyard worker in Delhi died from radiation poisoning and seven others were injured, raising concerns over the handling of radioactive material in India.

Sources said that the alarm spread after an employee of a private company handling the cargo saw radioactive tags, took a radiation reading but misinterpreted it. After the matter came to the notice of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which provides security to the airport, the whole cargo area of was cordoned off and evacuated.

A team of doctors from Medanta Hospital was also rushed to the spot. The department of atomic energy activated its crisis management group. Environmental group Toxic Links estimates that India produces five million tonnes of hazardous industrial waste every year.

“A call was received from the airport around 10.45 am regarding suspected radioactive leak. A nuclear medicine, Molibdenum 99, had brought for BL Kapoor Hospital. The quantity of radiation emitted from the nuclear medicine was below 1 milliroentgen. There was no beta radiation in the surrounding areas and there was no leak. The radiological emergency was called off at 1.55 pm,” said Delhi district magistrate Abhishek Singh.

The NDRF said that there was nothing to panic and that there was no effect in the passenger area. “Tim-ely response by National Disaster Response Force and other stakeholders prevented the situation fr-om causing undue panic,” said an NDRF official.

“A call was received from the airport around 10.45 AM regarding suspected radioactive leak from medical equipment,” said Atul Garg, Chief Fire Officer.

The local unit of the CISF intimated the NDRF control room about the suspected radioactive leak from a sanitized container from a consignment that came on an Air France plane last night.

Air France said in a statement that the shipment of radioactive medical material on flight AF 226 operated by an A 330 aircraft from Paris to New Delhi on October 8, 2016 “did not reveal any anomaly”.

Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), which runs the IGI airport, said, “There was no radioactive leakage and all operations at the Delhi airport are normal.”

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi