Romanian police have discovered thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored illegally and unsafely at sites and storage units across the country.
They seized 8.500 tonnes of the chemical, three times greater than the 2,750 tonnes that caused the devastating explosion in Beirut on August 4. The explosion in the Lebanese capital killed more than 170 and injured thousands.
In a statement, Romania's police force said it carried out 51 checks over three days and that several criminal inquiries had been launched into companies suspected of negligence and mismanaging hazardous materials.
In the Black Sea port of Agigea, officers found a single warehouse illegally holding 5,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, while in the Danube port cities of Brăila and Galaţi 30 and 35 tonnes respectively were found stored outside and in unsafe conditions.
In another case, police found 368 tonnes being kept on a farm in direct sunlight.
Romania: A major importer of ammonium nitrate
Meanwhile, Romania’s Maritime Ports Administration issued a press release late last week saying that 26.000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate are currently stored in the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania’s largest port. That is ten times the amount that caused the explosion in Beirut.
The authority added that the dangerous material is being kept in certified warehouses specially designated for this purpose. It added that the operators handling and shipping the ammonium nitrate follow a protocol approved by Romania’s General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations, a public body specialized in fire safety, civil protection and emergency situations.
Romania is a major importer of ammonium nitrate, which when mixed with other chemicals can be used as fertilizer in agriculture. The chemical compound has to be stored under strict conditions, in limited quantities, under cool temperatures and away from direct sunlight.
In 2004, a truck loaded with the chemical caught fire and exploded in Mihăilești, Buzău County, Romania, killing 18 and injuring 13.