HIDDEN KILLERS

World littered with mines and bombs

In Summary

• Many ordnances are especially found in countries emerging from long conflicts

A hand grenade that was recovered in Mshomoroni, Kisauni, Mombasa county
A hand grenade that was recovered in Mshomoroni, Kisauni, Mombasa county
Image: FILE

Unexploded ordnance (UXOs) are not only found in Kenya. Many countries are contaminated with them, including nations in America and Europe. Some ordnance dates way back, as far as World War 1. Many ordnances are especially found in countries emerging from long conflicts.

More than 2,000 tons of unexploded munitions are uncovered on German soil every year. Before any construction project begins in Germany, the ground must be certified as cleared of unexploded ordnance. In 2015, some 20,000 people were cleared from an area of Cologne, while authorities removed a one-ton bomb that had been discovered during construction work.

In November 2013, another 20,000 people in Dortmund were evacuated while experts defused a 4,000-pound “Blockbuster” bomb that could destroy most of a city block. 

In 2011, 45,000 people — the largest evacuation in Germany since World War II — were forced to leave their homes when a drought revealed a similar device lying on the bed of the Rhine in the middle of Koblenz.

Although the country has been at peace for three generations, German bomb-disposal squads are among the busiest in the world. Eleven bomb technicians have been killed in Germany since 2000, including three who died in a single explosion while trying to defuse a 1,000-pound bomb on the site of a popular flea market in Göttingen in 2010.

SCARS OF WAR

In Vietnam, an estimated 800,000 tons of landmines and unexploded ordnance is buried in the land and mountains. It is the most contaminated country by UXOs due to prolonged war.

From 1975 to 2015, up to 100,000 people were injured or killed by bombs left over from the war. Although a considerable effort has been made by humanitarian organisations and the Vietnamese government, unexploded bombs continue to place communities at risk and restrict access to safe land required for housing, agriculture, infrastructure and community development.

In Africa, Egypt is the most contaminated country, with the Egyptian armed forces estimating around 20 million mines and unexploded bombs are still buried in the sand, posing a significant threat to local communities. The EU is now involved in assisting the Egyptian government and others with the cleanup.

According to UN figures, over 8,000 people have been killed or injured by the explosives, and thousands of square kilometres of Egyptian territory remain off limits.