NEW DELHI: An airport safety report by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security warns that the Mumbai Airport is a sitting duck for lone-wolf terrorists, who can easily target the domestic terminal by planting explosives in vehicles parked in the multi-storey car park, which has 5,000 parking slots.
A blast will not only collapse the nine-level car park in the terminal building, but will also spread the damage to the hangars and areas where aircraft is parked, leading to a wider conflagration and the consequent devastation. Since the airport lacks the means to detect explosives below 250 kg, it might be possible for saboteurs to smuggle in vehicles packed with 150 kg each and detonate them by remote control.
The Mumbai Airport’s Air Traffic Controller (ATC) tower is vulnerable to vehicle bombs in the car park of the domestic terminal, according to the report by a committee headed by Additional Commissioner-Security at the Bureau of Civil Aviation. It is now surrounded by parking lots on all three sides, barely five to 10 metres away, in violation of security aviation safety norms, which mandate that vehicles should be parked at a distance of least 100 metres from the ATC. The CISF check-post at the parking complex has no explosive detection equipment.
A committee, headed by Additional Commissioner, Security at the Bureau of Civil Aviation Headquarters, Delhi, observed that the study—conducted by specialists on ‘blast threat’ and mitigation—is focused solely on vehicles loaded with over 250 kg of plastic explosives.
“The possibility of a large quantity and higher quantity of explosives strategically placed and packaged to cause more extensive damage to life and property cannot be ruled out,” the internal report pointed, adding “The blast pressure effect would be considerably lower in the open area covered by canopy but, the fragmentation effect would be devastating. The possibility of entire structure of multi level car parking being brought down can also not be ruled out in addition to the secondary effects like fire and panic.”
“Keeping in view the surcharged scenario in and around the country, particularly Mumbai which has history of terrorist attack, authorities are requested to comply with security measures required for the vital installations, particularly ATC tower,” Capt SK Malik, joint general manager (security), states in his report, “Therefore leaving ATC tower vulnerable to vehicles parked in the car park of domestic terminal.”
In November 2016, The Sunday Standard had published an internal report by a key aviation safety official, declaring Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai, and its adjoining Juhu airport “unsafe for operations” and recommended “partial closure of runway at CSIA’’, red-flagging 150 structures, which exceed their permitted height of 56.9 metres above the sea level. The airport, which handled around 42 million passengers between April 2015 and March 2016, manages around 60 flights during peak hours. On an average, it handles over 800 flights daily.