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Dangerous radioactive material stolen in Mexico

world Updated: Apr 16, 2015 10:10 IST

Authorities issued an alert for several Mexican states on Wednesday after thieves snatched potentially deadly radioactive material used for industrial radiography.

The iridium-192 source, marked X-571, was inside a container when it was stolen on Monday from a truck in Cardenas, a town in southern Tabasco state, the interior ministry said in a statement.

The ministry launched an alert for civil protection authorities in the states of Tabasco, Campeche, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Veracruz, as well as the federal police, the navy and the army.

The ministry said that, if not handled with proper protection, "this source could cause permanent injuries to the person who handles it or who has been in contact with it for a brief time (minutes or hours)."

"Being close to this quantity of unprotected radioactive material for hours or days could be fatal," the statement warned.

This was the latest case in an array of radioactive material theft in Mexico. Previously in December 2013, thieves took a truck containing highly radioactive cobalt-60 from a cancer-treating medical device near Mexico City, but they were apparently unaware of the cargo within the vehicle.

Authorities arrested and hospitalized five suspects in that case after recovering the potentially lethal material. They all survived.
That theft prompted the International Atomic Energy Agency to issue an alert for "extremely dangerous" material and the US government to keep tabs on the situation.

More recently, in February, authorities recovered three stolen trucks in central Mexico that had been transporting radioactive material for industrial use.

A similar incident took place in July 2014, also without causing harm to the population.