Disaster averted after toxic acid boxes offloaded from plane

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

After one of the boxes fell down emitting strong acidic fumes, the entire consignment was off-loaded from the aircraft once the security personnel were alerted.

The flight later took off as scheduled with 156 passengers and nine crew members on board.Airport officials said a case has been filed against the Thrissur-based Infra Scientific Agency and the IATA-registered agent through whom the consignment was being sent.
Airport and police authorities have begun investigation into how the consignment was permitted into the aircraft.

The airport authorities have also decided not to accept any consignments from the exporter and the agent following the incident.

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

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

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

An official of a leading air cargo agency said, "By law, we cannot carry certain goods and substances...Some seemingly innocent substances, which are safe on the ground, may become dangerous when subjected to the fluctuations of temperature and pressure during the flight...Hydrochloric acid is not to be transported by air.

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