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AIRLINES REFUSE TO HAUL WATCHES WITH LITHIUM

Several international air carriers have banned cargo consignments of plastic watches powered by lithium batteries made in China and South Korea after a possible link between the batteries and in-air explosions was uncovered.

The airlines, including British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Luf-thansa, made the move after it was revealed that a Lauda Air Boeing 767 that crashed over northern Thailand in May, killing all 223 people on board, was carrying about 55 pounds of the watches in its cargo hold.Officials said a South African Airways Boeing 747, which ignited and plunged into the Indian Ocean in 1987, killing all 159 people aboard, and a Cathay Pacific Tri-Star, which had a fire in its cargo hold during a 1987 flight, were also carrying hundreds of the watches.

Lithium can spontaneously combust if exposed to humidity higher than 4 percent, and investigators believe the watch batteries could have been insufficiently sealed and caused the fires.

Other carriers remain sceptical of the theory.