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Papua New Guinea Warning on Live Bombs
by The National April 4, 2001

A SEPIK man lost his right arm and received second degree burns to his face last week when a World War II bomb he was tampering with exploded. Another person, a cousin who was with him, suffered serious injuries and is in hospital while a third person escaped unhurt. The incident happened in East New Britain Province. The three were trying to extract explosive particles from the wartime bomb.

Accidents involving wartime bombs are not new in the province. In 1984, five youths from Matupit island were blown to pieces when they tried to tamper with a 1,000 kilogram WWII bomb on the island.

Many similar incidents in the recent past, where people have either died or escaped with serious injuries, have occurred in the province.

This week, acting provincial administrator and chairman of the Provincial Disaster Committee, Akuila Tubal, issued a warning to people not to tamper or interfere with any of the WWII bombs they may find.

Mr Tubal said people need to know that wartime bombs are still "deadly and dangerous", even though they may be 40 to 60 years old.

He said these bombs were designed to kill and destroy properties when they explode and despite the fact that they have been buried for many years, they are still very dangerous.

The provincial disaster coordinator, Peniel Tolotu, has been moving around the province trying to record and report areas where live WWII bombs are located. He has appealed to the people to report any bombs that are found in their areas instead of attempting to remove or tamper with them.

So far, a total of 22 bombs, identified as WWII bombs, have been uncovered as a result of the exercise. At Takubar township, 14 x 50kg bombs have been identified while 8x1000 kg bombs have been uncovered in Rabaul.

Mr Tolotu said these bombs are still potent and are capable of causing massive destruction if they explode at their present location. He said the bombs can also kill hundreds if they are tampered with or not removed immediately by experts.

Mr Tubal has instructed Mr Tolotu to carry out an urgent and thorough check of all the villages in the Gazelle Peninsula where bombs are likely to be found. He has also appealed to village leaders, councilors and LLG presidents as well as church workers to assist in the exercise and to educate the people on the dangers of interfering with these bombs. "We know why people want to defuse these bombs and why they try to extract bomb powder or grease from them. They use them for home-made dynamite and other deadly purposes," Mr Tubal said.

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