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WTC rubble on recycle route

Mandi Govindgarh (Fatehgarh Saheb), Aug. 25: Twisted columns, beams and girders that once supported the majestic twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, have found their way into the induction furnaces here for re-rolling.

Thousands of tonnes of twisted metal of the two towers have been sent to the foundries in the town established by sixth Sikh guru Hargovind. There are reports that part of the scrap has been reshipped and sold as souvenirs.

Residents are amazed at the extent to which some of the columns and girders have been contorted out of shape. “Each piece is very heavy. A simple glance at them sends shivers down one’s spine. To bring them crashing down must have taken a lot of doing,” said Baljit Singh, an industrialist in Mohali. Mill workers describe the rubble as “Laden chhaap (stamp)”.

“People must see them. It should remind us what terrorism is capable of achieving. It also conveys the hard work of the people involved in clearing them. Removing the rubble must have been a gigantic task. I have never seen such heavy metal twisted in such a manner. I used to think it is just not possible manually or by machine,” he said, after a trip to a mill in the town.

That WTC scrap is being melted here cannot be denied. What’s difficult to explain is the veil of secrecy imposed by mill owners on employees, forbidding them to speak about what’s ultimately happening to the scrap. While an employee of Vimal Alloys (Pvt) Ltd, located on the road to Amloh, admitted to the existence of the scrap, its managing director Subhash Bansal said all pieces had been melted.

“I cannot say anything. I don’t want to be quoted on anything. Whatever I had has been melted. There is nothing left. If you want, you can go to the scrapyard and see for yourself,” he said. A glance did not reveal any heavy columns or beams. Although most of the rubble has been melted into ingots, some has allegedly been reshipped to various countries for undisclosed purposes.

“We are scrap dealers. The material comes from all sources, from collapsed buildings and bridges. What we do with it once we buy it is our business,” a mill owner said. Another proprietor said the beams and columns are so heavy that cranes are required to shift them from place to place.

“They were thoroughly cleaned before being sent to us. Apart from some burn and melt marks, none of them carried any sign suggesting that when they fell apart they took down with them thousands of people too,” he remarked, revealing that many mills had received WTC scrap.

An Indian firm bought as much as 30,000 tonne of the scrap for recycling. The rubble — reportedly purchased at a throwaway price — was meant to be converted to steel, furniture and parts of household goods.

First auctioned by the New York City authorities to a New Jersey scrap dealer, the gigantic debris of the twin towers were then sold to a Dubai-based dealer, who in turn sold them to a Chennai-based company. The latter entered a deal with a New Delhi-based firm, following which, the scrap reached this town.

Apart from a column shaped like a Cross and other objects which provided clues for investigators, everything else had been auctioned. The US government has neither retained nor sold a single piece of the two towers as souvenir.

Scrap re-rolling is a thriving business in Punjab. After the Kuwait war, thousands of tonnes of metal, including unexploded bombs, had found their way to the backyards of dealers in and around Ludhiana. Mishandling of the bombs also led to fatal injuries to many workers.

In June last year, about 1,000 live bombs had been recovered from Dhandhari Kalan, the dry port situated about 10 km from Ludhiana. They were found in the container freight station and were part of a steel scrap consignment that would eventually have been used for producing high quality steel.

A major disaster was averted as the bombs were detected moments before being sent to a mill for melting. The army, police and the district administration took two days to remove them.

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