A desperate hunt is underway for a metal cylinder that contains dangerous radioactive material.
It went missing from a power plant in Thailand earlier this week and poses a danger to health.
The steel tube, which is 30cm long and 13cm wide, was first reported missing during a series routine checks by staff at a power plant in Prachin Buri, a province in central Thailand, east of the capital Bangkok.
It is thought the device may have gone missing from the plant on Feb 23, but its disappearance has only just been noticed and reported to police.
Police told CNN that ‘it is unclear if the item was stolen and sold to a recycling shop or misplaced elsewhere,’ while security camera footage provided ‘limited views’ of the machine.
A desperate search is now underway to recover the device before it causes serious harm, with officers inspecting junk shops, scrap metal yards and secondhand stores in Prachin Buri and the neighbouring Chachoengsao province
The cylinder contains the highly radioactive material Caesium-137, which health officials have warned prolonged direct contact with can cause skin rashes, hair loss, canker sores, fatigue, and vomiting.
The development comes just two months after a similar capsule went missing in the Australian outback, forcing authorities to undergo a desperate search until it was eventually located by the side of a highway.
But while the Australian capsule went missing miles away from the nearest major city– the Thai canister has vanished in a much more densely-populated area.
They said short-term contact with Caesium-137 may not show immediate symptoms but could lead to a higher risk of cancer.
Thongchai Keeratihuttayakorn, director-general of the Department of Medical Services, said Caesium-137 has similar physical characteristics to salt and can disperse easily if its container is opened.
He said it is used in devices such as ones measuring humidity or the velocity of liquids.
The National Power Supply Public Company, which owns 10 power plants in the region, including the one with the missing cylinder, said the device might have fallen from a wall mount.
Kittiphan Chitpentham, a representative of the company, said it is not clear whether the cylinder had gone missing by accident, and announced the company would provide a 50,000 baht ($1,445) cash reward for anyone who can provide information about it.
In 2000, illegally disposed canisters containing the radioactive substance Cobalt-60 were found in a junkyard in Samut Prakarn, a suburb of Bangkok.
At least five people were hospitalised after being exposed to radiation when the canisters were opened by the scrapyard workers, unaware of the hazard. The cylinders were believed to have come from a medical X-ray machine.
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