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Senegal exports ammonium nitrate to Mali over fears of Beirut blast repeat

September 3, 2020 at 2:18 pm

Oil tanker docked in a port in Dakar on 2 March 2018 [SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images]

Senegalese officials have removed 3,050 tonnes of ammonium nitrate from Dakar’s port and exported the dangerous substance to Mali over concerns the stockpile could cause a blast similar to the 4 August explosion in Beirut, Agence France Presse (AFP) reports.

A statement issued yesterday by the Dakar port authorities confirmed the ammonium nitrate had been exported on Tuesday and was quoted by AFP as saying, “no ammonium nitrate is present at the port of Dakar”.

Last month’s blast in Beirut was caused when 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate ignited and exploded in the port’s warehouse 12. The explosion killed nearly 200 and injured thousands more as well as causing widespread material damage as far as 15 miles from the site of the blast.

In the aftermath of the disaster in Lebanon’s capital, international governments scrambled to secure and remove stores of dangerous chemicals held in ports and airports, leading to the discovery of an ammonium nitrate stockpile in Dakar two weeks ago.

At the time, Senegal’s President Macky Sall ordered the substance removed from the port and asked the country’s interior and environment ministers to draw up a nationwide plan to monitor and secure stores of explosive chemicals.

READ: Same tonnage of chemicals that exploded in Beirut found in Dakar, Senegal

The 3,050 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had originally arrived in the port of Dakar nearly a month ago pending bit-by-bit delivery to Mali, according to an earlier report by AFP, and was part of a longstanding trade partnership.

In 2019, AFP reported, more than 21,000 tonnes of the highly explosive substance were delivered to Dakar port and transported onwards to Mali.

However, deliveries of the substance had stalled after the military-led coup shuttered the landlocked state’s borders in mid-August.

After the stockpile was discovered, the owner of the ammonium nitrate was asked to re-export the chemical from Dakar’s port and remove the substance from the country.

It remains unclear which party organised Tuesday’s convoy of trucks, which, according to AFP, was escorted by the Senegalese gendarmerie to the Malian border.

In the wake of the Beirut disaster, several international governments including Iraq, Australia, India and the UK have also admitted to and either secured or removed ammonium nitrate stores in transport hubs such as ports and airports.

READ: Iraq clears ports of ‘hazardous materials’ following Beirut blast