Thailand authorities are frantically scrambling and searching for a radioactive cylinder that went missing from a power plant earlier this week, according to reports.
Authorities say the cylinder poses a serious health risk to anyone who comes in contact with it.
Health officials warned that prolonged direct contact with radioactive material can cause skin rashes, hair loss, canker sores, fatigue, and vomiting. They added that short-term contact with the radioactive item, which features the element Caesium-137, may not show immediate symptoms but could lead to a higher risk of cancer, the New York Post reported.
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, the New York Post reported. He said the element is used in devices like those that measure humidity or the velocity of liquids.
The cylinder, which measures 4 inches long and 5 inches wide, was reported missing during routine checks by staff on March 10, at the coal power plant in Prachin Buri, a province in central Thailand, east of the capital Bangkok, according to CNN.
The cylinder weighs approximately 55 pounds, according to reports.
The province has a population close to 500,000 people and features some of the country’s most popular national parks, including the famed Khao Yai National Park which is popular with both locals and tourists, according to CNN.
Ake Wongjinda, a public relations officer for the provincial government, said Wednesday that authorities have inspected junk shops, scrap metal yards, and secondhand stores in Prachinburi and neighboring Chachoengsao province for the cylinder, the New York Post reported.
Kittiphan Chitpentham, a spokesperson of the National Power Supply Public Co., Ltd., the power station’s owner, where the cylinder went missing, said it is not clear whether the item had gone absent by accident, NBC News reported.
Chitpentham added that the company would provide a 50,000 baht ($1,445) cash reward for anyone who can provide information about it.
Chitpentham said that despite realizing the cylinder went missing this week, it may have disappeared several weeks ago.
In just three months of 2023, this is the second radioactive item to go missing. Earlier this year, a radioactive capsule went missing after it fell off the back of a truck in Australia. It was recovered after a lengthy search.