Morehead City port reopening delayed
The North Carolina State Ports Authority said Wednesday morning it would delay reopening the Port of Morehead City after nine drums carrying the explosive PETN were damaged on Tuesday as they were being loaded onto a truck.
Officials had said Tuesday evening they hoped to reopen the port this morning, but would wait “as utmost safety procedures are exercised in the remediation of a hazardous materials incident.”
Karen Fox, a spokesman for the North Carolina Port Authority, said drums of the chemical were damaged by a forklift.
Local authorities evacuated the port and instituted a voluntary evacuation for downtown areas surrounding the port as a precaution after an accident occurred during discharge of cargo from a commercial vessel.
Scott Hembrook, a public affairs officer at the Coast Guard’s office in Atlantic Beach, N.C., said three to five gallons of the chemical pentaerythritol tetranitrate were spilled and emergency personnel, including members of the Morehead City Fire Department, were cleaning up the spill and separating the damaged from the undamaged cargo.
He said the work was slow-going because of the need to keep the chemical wet to keep it from igniting.
The port authority said there were no reported injuries or damage to the environment, and added that explosive materials are routinely handled at the port. An investigation into the circumstances of the accident is under way.
The chemicals had arrived on the ship the Lehmann Forester from Spain and bound for a manufacturing plant of the industrial explosives maker Maxam North America.
PETN is a component used in industrial explosives as well as ordinance.