Dangerous relics

November 8th, 2006  

Topic: Dangerous relics

Source Aftenposten English Web Desk

Dangerous relics

Defense experts have removed about 10,000 potentially deadly explosive
objects from the Second World War - just this year.

Mortar shells, ammunition, mines and even 250 kilo (550 lb) air bombs keep turning up in Norway where one least expects. This summer Defense explosives experts have cleared away dangerous objects from roadside ditches, gardens, hiking paths and even cellars.

Now efforts to clear away all such deadly war relics are being stepped up. So far this year explosives experts have had 240 operations on land and about 100 at sea. Despite 61 years passing since the end of the war, the explosives still pose a real threat.

National program

"Even small explosives, for example blasting caps, can do great damage," warns Major Jørgen Petersen at Regional Command Northern Norway. He is coordinating the national clean-up effort and has specially trained operators who move out on request from police.

Recently a German construction worker was killed and his excavator destroyed when he hit a 50-kilo air bomb during road work. In Kirkenes in northern Norway four soldiers were lucky to escape serious injury when their campfire exploded in the summer of 2005 - they had camped by the side of an old mortar shell.

Major Petersen is a bit surprised by the steady need to make visits to private cellars and sheds.

"Previously one may have had an easier relationship with explosives, and took care of them. When a new generation takes over a house, they want help removing shells from the storage cellar," Petersen said.

Safety first

Dangerous objects are constantly poking up outdoors, when roads are built or housing areas are dug.

At former German camps and storehouses the concentration of explosives can be huge. In Kirkenes in the far north there are hundreds of finds every summer in popular hiking territory, where ammunition was stockpiled during the war in anticipation of attacks on Russia.

Along the coast the chains holding mines rust away, and their deadly burden surfaces.

Petersen advises extreme care if explosives are found, and prefers errors to be on the side of excessive caution.

"Don't touch the find. Mark its place, take a picture if you can and notify the nearest police," Petersen said.

There are 80 specially trained experts across the country ready to move out when called by police. Sometimes the explosive can be taken away, others must be rendered harmless on the spot.

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