PNGDF searches in vain for explosives

National, Normal


THE two containers of explosives from the mv Lihir Express mishap in Salamaua on Oct 5 cannot be found.
Explosives ordinance disposal (EOD) experts from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force searched by helicopter last Saturday but could not see any of the containers, Huon district administrator Tony Ase said yesterday.
One of the facts that they needed to know was the timing of the mayday call from the ship to its headquarters at the Bismarck Maritime office in Lae, Defence Force officers said.
They were finding it difficult to pinpoint the location.
They said the National Maritime Safety Authority also did not know.
They said it was a practice to load explosive last.
“So if containers were offloaded, the explosives would have been the first to go,” one officer said.
“Coupled with the timing of the mayday call, they could zero in on their location.”
It is believed this is the third search they have conducted since last Wednesday.
The previous two searches were by motorised dinghy.
They would now require their divers from the landing craft squadron at Fairfax Harbour, Port Moresby, to help out.
It is understood the Morobe provincial government is sending a formal request to the Defence headquarters at Murray Barracks to have the specialist EOD divers conduct the search.
The containers belong to Orica and were being shipped on Lihir Express when she was stricken 90km out of Lae at Salamaua, in the Huon Gulf district.
Other problems have now beset the locals of Nasau and Hessen Bay.
Their reefs and beaches are strewn with the chicken’s plastic wrappers, plastics bags and cartons – cargo from the sunken vessel.
Islanders from Lasanga, Jawani, Lababia and Longuerue complained to the Huon district that the rotting chicken were giving off foul smell.
The also said that the containers, while being washed ashore, destroyed coral reefs.
Mr Ase and his health officers have warned the people not to use sea salt for cooking as they could be contaminated.
He said he was awaiting a situation assessment report from the Salamaua LLG manager Joe Paru and the health officer Clement Kumalu.
Mr Paru and Mr Kumalu have called on Bismarck Maritime to “immediately remove them (containers) somehow”.