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Unexploded wartime bombs cleared in Solomon Islands: New Zealand military

NEW Zealand and Canadian troops have recovered 50 unexploded munitions, including a 250-pound bomb, from the site of a World War II United States air base in the Solomon Islands, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) said Tuesday.

A combined team of divers from the New Zealand navy's diving and mining countermeasures support ship HMNZS Manawanui and explosive ordnance disposal experts from the Canadian Defence Force found the unexploded ordnance in villages and waterways in Sunlight Channel, in the Russell Islands.

The area was the site of a wartime U.S. Army Air Corps airstrip and ammunition base, which was used to support the campaign against the Japanese forces.

All the unexploded munitions except for the 250-pound bomb, which would be disposed of at a later date, had been detonated safely underwater, Lieutenant Commander Muzz Kennett, Commanding Officer of the Manawanui, said in a statement.

The unexploded ordnance was found during Operation Render Safe 2016, a biennial operation led by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) that aims to safely dispose of explosive remnants left after World War II.

"The ship is serving as a support platform for the removal and safe disposal of unexploded ordnance. This involves work on land as well as at sea," said Kennet.

Manawanui's crew was also working with a Solomon Islands police officer to talk to islanders living in coastal villages about underwater locations that might have unexploded munitions.

About 120 ADF personnel were working with 40 specialists from New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, with the cooperation of the Solomon Islands government and police, on the operation, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 7.

Vast quantities of unexploded wartime munitions still pose a danger to people living in and around former military base and battle sites in the Pacific islands.


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