Disaster averted after toxic acid boxes offloaded from plane

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Kochi, Jan 27 (PTI) A possible air disaster was avertedas 98 boxes containing hydrochloric acid, declared globally as''dangerous good'', were off-loaded from a passenger plane herebefore take-off after one of them fell on the tarmac whilebeing loaded, generating strong fume, officials said today.

A consignment of 98 boxes were being loaded on to aDoha-bound Qatar Airways flight yesterday as the exporter hadwrongly declared it as ''not dangerous'' and claiming that itcontained medical equipment, Airport Director A K C Nair said.

After one of the boxes fell down emitting strong acidicfumes, the entire consignment was off-loaded from the aircraftonce the security personnel were alerted.

The flight later took off as scheduled with 156passengers and nine crew members on board.

Airport officials said a case has been filed against theThrissur-based Infra Scientific Agency and the IATA-registeredagent through whom the consignment was being sent.

Airport and police authorities have begun investigationinto how the consignment was permitted into the aircraft.

The airport authorities have also decided not to acceptany consignments from the exporter and the agent following theincident.

Under the International Air Transport Association (IATA)rules, hydrochloric acid, which is toxic and a highlycorrosive substance, is prohibited from being transported byair. It is declared as ''Category Eight Dangerous Good'' as ithas severe corrosive effect on living tissue, other cargo andthe aircraft itself.

Meanwhile in New Delhi, an official of the Bureau ofCivil Aviation Security (BCAS) said investigations into theincident were on.

The toxic chemical can in no case be transported by apassenger plane, the official, who requested anonymity, said,indicating that the license of the cargo agent could becancelled.

An official of a leading air cargo agency said, "By law,we cannot carry certain goods and substances...Some seeminglyinnocent substances, which are safe on the ground, may becomedangerous when subjected to the fluctuations of temperatureand pressure during the flight...Hydrochloric acid is not tobe transported by air." PTI UD ARC

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