Suspected radioactive leak shuts Terminal 3 of international airport in India's Delhi

New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3 (seen in a file picture) was cordoned off after a suspected radioactive leak.
New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3 (seen in a file picture) was cordoned off after a suspected radioactive leak.PHOTO: RAKESH SAHAI

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK/AFP) - A suspected radioactive leak was reported from the Indira Gandhi International Airport in India's city of Delhi on Sunday (Oct 9) morning, leading to the authorities cordoning off Terminal 3 of the airport.

According to officials, the suspected radioactive substance, called Molybdenum-99, leaked from medical equipment at the cargo terminal of the airport and came from an Air France aircraft.

At least seven fire tenders were rushed to the airport, along with teams of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

According to the Delhi Fire Services, the complaint was received from the authorities of the Terminal 3 around 10.40 am local time.

Fifteen cartons containing nuclear medicine material were isolated to investigate the suspected leak after the shipment arrived at the cargo area in an Air France plane, Mr Sanjay Bhatia, the police chief of Delhi airport security, told Agence France-Presse.

"The consignment had come from Paris. Our staff reported a leak in the shipment and we alerted the authorities," said Mr Bhatia.

"The situation is under control. We have cleared the cargo area and experts from India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board are examining the material."

The shipment was meant for biomedical companies in New Delhi and a few other Indian cities, he said.

Last year a similar suspicion caused a scare at the busy airport after cargo staff found a shipment with nuclear medicine damaged on Turkish Airlines.

Investigators from India's nuclear watchdog later found an organic liquid from another consignment had spilled over the nuclear medicine cartons.

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.

Environmental group Toxic Links estimates that India produces five million tonnes of hazardous industrial waste every year.