Prachin Buri province raised its dangerous situation alert to Level 2 on Wednesday as the search continued into its second day for a missing bulky tube containing radioactive caesium-137, a highly hazardous isotope.
Level 2 means the provincial government is required to take charge of the operation being carried out to deal with this specific threat to public safety, said Narong Nakhonchinda, the provincial governor. Level 4 indicates the highest threat to safety.
Mr Narong was referring to the caesium-137 tube that was found in an initial investigation to have gone missing while being transported between venues and not stolen from a factory as was initially suspected.
The tube, belonging to a steam power plant in tambon Tha Matum of Sri Maha Phot district, was believed to have gone missing on Feb 23, but the company that owns it only reported the incident to police last Friday.
A total of 26 scrap shops in the district were searched on Tuesday, but no sign of the tube was found, Mr Narong said, adding the search continued on Wednesday to little avail.
A reward of 50,000 baht is being offered to anyone who provides information leading to the recovery of the missing tube, said Dr Surin Suebsueng, the chief provincial public health officer.
“In case you find anything suspected to be the missing caesium-137 tube, please alert the authorities. Stay away from it and don’t try to open it,” said the doctor.
A check of records dating back one month at hospitals and healthcare centres in the province found no suspected case of sickness or injuries that could have been caused by exposure to the radioactive material, he said.
A surveillance system has been set up to look for signs of sickness possibly linked to exposure to caesium-137, he said.
The province’s public health emergency operation centre and its partners in other provinces are being told to get ready for any responses that may be needed.