The recent discovery of unexploded military ordnance highlights the latest round of international cooperation in Palau.
On January 9, road workers in Malakal uncovered a 550pound bomb, a remnant from Japanese fortifications during World War II, prompting evacuation of a 300 meter radius until explosives experts could neutralize the bomb.
Steve Ballinger, a bomb expert from Clear Ground Demining inspect the bomb. Photo by CGD
The discovery caps ordnance awareness sessions and collaboration between the Republic of Palau, and the United Kingdom-based non-profit, Cleared Ground Demining, or CGD.
CGD Operations Director Steve Ballinger said that the bomb was manually defused at the scene, and then extracted on the afternoon of January 10.
Despite the age of the explosive, Ballinger explained that such bombs remain dangerous.
“Any ordnance is very dangerous and even more so after they have been exposed to the elements for such a long time. A major part of CGD's risk awareness campaign has been to change the dangerous assumption held by many that the ordnance is safe, when in fact it is often more dangerous due to their age.”
The workers discovered the 70-year-old bomb while digging up the road between Riptide Bar and the Malakal Sewer Plant to lay the new water pipe as part of the multi-million water improvement project in Koror and Airai.
According to Ballinger, the workers knew that they needed to alert CGD due to the training his organization has provided to construction companies in Palau.
“I’m glad to see that our demining trainings with construction workers are paying off,” he said in a statement released by the Office of the President, Jan.11.
“With the bomb set upwards waiting to be hit, we are fortunate that the construction worker recognized it as it was unearthed. It would be a different story if he was not trained and thought the bomb was a metal pipe,” the statement said.
In an interview, January 15, Ballinger said the bomb was one of the biggest uncovered in Koror and was used as an anti invasion bomb by Japanese soldiers during WWII. Historical research showed that the bomb had most likely been deployed as an anti invasion device to protect military infrastructure nearby.
“ We looked at the WWII maps of the area and saw that the area where the bomb was found there were two searchlights and six anti-aircraft gun positions, hence the presence of this bomb being used as an anti- invasion device,” he explained.
The bomb being readied fro transportation to CGD's demolition range facility in Aimeliik. Photo by CGD
CGD is a non-profit organization, which specializes in removing explosive remnants of war. Their work in Palau, for the past four years, has been made possible by funding from the Australian government.
Palau Public Utilities Corporation, the implementing arm of the $17 million water project funded through Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) said because of the incident a meeting is scheduled next week with CGD to discuss how they PPUC can better prepare for unexploded ordnance (UXO) that again may be uncovered during the course of the project.
Anthony Rudimch, PPUC’s water project manager said that during the planning state of the project, it was assessed that there is a “low likelihood ‘ of UXO found in the area of the project.
President Remengsau commended CGD for defusing the bomb and the Norwegian People’s Aid-Humanitarian Disarmament in helping secure the area in Malakal.
Norwegian Peoples Aid assisted the police in providing a safety cordon while CGD defused the bombed and checked the area for other bombs.
“And with major road and waterline construction taking place in Palau, we are fortunate that our Law Enforcement Officers, Public Works staff and Safety Officers are being trained on life saving capacities in ordnance demining. The bomb-defusing event that took place in Malakal was a tremendous display of diligence and team work by our partners and local government agencies,” the president said in the statement.
The bomb was transported to CGD's demolition range facility in Aimeliik. CGD will destroy it, along with other ordnance that CGD has found this year[ ] around Koror and Babeldaob, in a controlled detonation next month.
CGD has located and removed approximately 48,000 items of ordnance in Palau since 2009.