It took them more than three days to realise that they were dealing with something that could cause a major disaster. What’s more, those who responded first to it also had no clue as to what it was.
So, on Thursday, when the Delhi Police, which can barely keep the goons and bad characters in check, were caught unawares on Thursday when they were asked to secure something they had never heard of.
The West Delhi police was asked to cordon off a 50-metre area around the scrap shop in Mayapuri. In the absence of any protective gear, they were exposed to radiation from Cobalt-60.
The Capital might be gearing up for the Commonwealth Games but when it comes to dealing with radioactive material they have no clue on how to handle it. Even though authorities became aware of the presence of radioactive material in Mayapuri on April 5, it took them another three days to detect and contain it. Evacuation of the area was done just hours before it was removed.
A team had to come all the way from Mumbai for this. “There are a few teams of National Disaster Management Force (NDRF), DRDO’s INMAS in the Capital. But after examining the material, it was found that Bhabha Atomic Research Center would handle it better. That is why there was a delay in removal of the radioactive material. It took them 24-hours to secure the location,” said an official of the NDRF.
Even the Delhi Fire Services, the first to react in mishaps and disasters, do not have the expertise to deal with a radioactive catastrophe. “We have three HAZMAT vehicles that deal with chemical, not radioactive, hazards,” said R.C. Sharma, Director Delhi Fire Services.
Ill equipped force
Neither the Delhi Police nor the scientists who turned up to contain the radioactive material had the right gear for the task. “We were told that the shop had radioactive material. We briefed our men to maintain a safe distance. But we do not have the equipment to deal with such things. We made a cordon of 300-metres after evacuating the market,” said DCP (West) Sharad Aggarwal.