Palauan Farmer Mistakenly Detonates WWII Era Bomb

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Nobody hurt, ordnance clearing team investigates, 2 more bombs found

By L. N. Reklai

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, April 5, 2016) – Thursday March 31st, at around 6pm, the village of Ngardmau was rocked by the explosion of a WWII Japanese 33lb / 15kg aircraft bomb.

A farm worker at the house of Mr. Bradley Kumangai had put a bomb in a pile of vegetation that he was burning, causing the 72 year old piece of ordnance to detonate. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

"We are very fortunate the bomb did not completely detonate. If it did, according to the bomb experts, our house would have been leveled. Our kids and neighbor’s kids were playing in the yard at the time," says Bradley Kumangai of the incident in his yard.

Mr. Kumangai immediately called 911 and Cleared Ground Demining (CGD). The CGD Emergency Callout Team, who are still removing ordnance from the Belau National Hospital, deployed immediately to Ngardmau to investigate the incident.

"I called 911 and no one could tell me who to contact regarding the bomb removal. We are very lucky to have Clear Ground Demining who knows what to do and were able to clear area around our house of these old bombs," added Kumangai.

During the deployment two additional aircraft bombs were located and removed. CGD's Mr. Guy Takada said Mr. Kumangai was very thankful for the immediate response, and that there are Palauans skilled to remove such bombs. Mr. Takada added that the bombs which are already unstable after 72 years, become even more unstable after they have been placed in fire.

"I would like to encourage Palauans to have these guys check their residential areas, especially if you see what looks like bombs," urged Kumangai in a phone interview.

The number of reports of ordinance found is growing. Each week reports are received by Cleared Ground Demining. Last week, 2 sea mines were cleared near a house in Airai, a 75mm projectile was removed on the road to Airai fish hatchery and previously, a pile of grenades were also found. "This is a regular occurrence," says Cassandra McKeown of Cleared Ground Demining.

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