Unexploded Ordnance - Unexploded Ordnance Worldwide

Unexploded Ordnance Worldwide

Unexploded ordnance from at least as far back as the American Civil War still poses a hazard worldwide, both in current and former combat areas and on military firing ranges. A major problem with unexploded ordnance is that over the years the detonator and main charge deteriorate, frequently making them more sensitive to disturbance, and therefore more dangerous to handle. There are countless examples of civilians tampering with unexploded ordnance that is many years old - often with fatal results. Believing it to be harmless they handle the device and it explodes, killing or severely injuring them. For this reason it is universally recommended that unexploded ordnance should not be touched or handled by unqualified persons. Instead, the location should be reported to the local police so that Bomb disposal or Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) professionals can render it safe.

Although professional EOD personnel have expert knowledge, skills and equipment, they are not immune to misfortune because of the inherent dangers: in June 2010, construction workers in Göttingen, Germany discovered an Allied 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) bomb dating from World War II buried approximately 7 metres (23 ft) below the ground. German EOD experts were notified and attended the scene. Whilst residents living nearby were being evacuated and the EOD personnel were preparing to disarm the bomb, it detonated, killing three of them and injuring 6 others. The dead and injured each had over 20 years of hands-on experience, and had previously rendered safe between 600 and 700 unexploded bombs. The bomb which killed and injured the EOD personnel was of a particularly dangerous type because it was fitted with a delayed-action chemical fuze, which had become highly unstable after over 65 years underground.

A dramatic example of MEC threat is the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery off the coast of Kent, which still contains 3000 tons of munitions. When a similar World War II wreck, the Polish Kielce exploded in 1967, it produced an earth tremor measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale.

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