The National, Monday 07th November 2011
By ABIGAIL APINA
MORE than 2,000 items, weighing five tonnes of war ordnance have been removed and disposed of near places where people live in East New Britain.
Operation Render Safe in Papua New Guinea waters around ENB involves a combined task force of Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea Defence Force personnel. It includes more than 150 sailors, airmen and army personnel.
They have worked tirelessly in the past three weeks to find, identify and render safe WWII munitions that were scattered near villages and populated areas.
Royal Australian Navy commander Scott Craig, the combined joint taskforce commander, said it included the removal of ordnance from under buildings, in and around local villages, plantations, Japanese tunnels and underwater in the harbour.
He said the team was aided by the latest technology to detect underwater and land-based unexploded ordnance.
He said local knowledge and the willingness of people to pass on information was valuable to the team.
He said the task force ensured villages were not damaged when they rendered safe the ordnance. They relocated most munitions to a safe demolition site before detonating them with explosives charges.
He said bombs that had been fused and had failed to detonate required careful attention.
Craig said local police provided roadblocks and the local radio station helped in telling the people about evacuations and traffic disruptions to ensure everyone stayed a safe distance away from where the bombs were detonated.
He said this was repeated several times in the past three weeks, with bombs as large as 1,000 pounds being blown in place when it had been
impossible to recover them from ravines in jungles near plantations and villages.
“Our focus has been to identify the most dangerous items near populated areas and deal with them first,” he said.
“The most important result of the Render Safe effort has been to educate locals not to touch or move unexploded ordnance.”