Dutch grab seven tonnes of illegal Chinese fireworks

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Dutch environmental inspectors have confiscated seven tonnes of illegal fireworks hidden in a container in the Rotterdam harbour, destined for Austria, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

"The fireworks were found after a routine inspection with customs officers," the infrastructure and environment ministry's spokesman for inspections, Gerard Westerhof, told AFP.

He said the haul included numerous dangerous fireworks including so-called "Vipers", which contained a large amount of flash powder, a dangerous mix of oxidizer and metallic fuel used in pyrotechnic and firework displays.

"These fireworks contained some 34 grammes of flash powder each, while the European norm is 0.5 grammes, while flash powder is illegal in the Netherlands," he said.

"This is one of our biggest hauls this year and the fireworks are some of the 'heaviest' we have so far encountered," Westerhof said, adding "they can really cause serious injury".

He said a criminal investigation into the consignment's origins have been launched and it was yet to be decided what to do with the confiscated goods.

The find comes on the day the Dutch government announced an agreement with Chinese authorities to improve efforts between the two countries to curb the import of illegal and unsafe fireworks from China.

With the agreement "information on shipments of illegal, wrongly packaged or dangerous fireworks found at the Dutch border can be given to Chinese authorities", the infrastructure and environment ministry said in a statement.

The Netherlands is a major importer of Chinese fireworks, with some 30,000 tonnes passing through Europe's largest port, Rotterdam, last year, it added.

© 2011 AFP

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