Tripoli, 14 December 2013:
Fifty tonnes of ammunition has been destroyed in one of the largest ever controlled demolitions in Libya.
Organised by international NGOs specialising in the removal of unexploded ordinance, Handicap International and the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), two batches – each of 25 tonnes – were destroyed on Friday near Misrata.
A team from the humanitarian NGO Handicap International conducted the first detonation of 577 high explosive projectiles, which had been removed from bunkers in an ammunition storage area damaged by NATO bombing.
“After Air Traffic Control ceased flight movements and roads were closed in and out of the area, teams executed the meticulously-planned demolition of scores of 152mm projectiles, each weighing 43kg a piece,” Handicap International said. The NGO added that, ahead of the explosion, an announcement warning about the explosion had been made on local radio to alert people.
A high-profile audience included representatives from the German and Dutch embassies, which have contributed funds to the ongoing clearance of ammunition stores and unexploded ordinance in and around Misrata.
‘You see the explosion before you hear it,’ said Sönke Lorenz. ‘It was amazing to see and I’m extremely happy the German government could fund Handicap International’s activities in Libya.” Lorenz added that finding, securing and disposing of unexploded ordnance could help Libyan people live free from the threat of injuries.
Thirty minutes later, a second demolition of 25 tonnes of ammunition was conducted by MAG.
“Ammunition destroyed ranged from 30mm projectiles, to 120mm mortars, to 152mm projectiles, with items weighing anywhere between 500g and 43kg,” MAG said. The ammunition, it explained, was no longer serviceable, and inhibited and endangered rehabilitation inside the storage area, threatening the lives of civilians in communities across Misrata.
Since April 2012, MAG has been clearing the ammunition storage area, which includes 15 bunkers, and it was joined by Handicap International early in 2013. So far, 50,000 explosive items have been removed and MAG said that 85 percent of the area had now been cleared.