Tripoli, 12 March 2013:
Weapons and explosive remnants of war collected by clearance agencies over the last year have been destroyed in a controlled demolition outside Sirte by NGO Handicap International.
“It’s satisfying that such a large volume has been destroyed,” said Handicap International’s Technical Advisor Brendan Ramshaw, who prepared the demolition. “Those items no longer pose a threat to the people of Sirte – grenades, projectiles and rockets were reduced to dust,” he added.
The items destroyed included over 500 mortars, some containing the highly-flammable noxious compound White Phosphorus, 60 grad rockets, 140 war heads and 330 rocket propelled grenades.
After the thirty-five day Battle of Sirte in 2011, the city was littered with weapons deployed by both sides of the conflict. These left homes, farm land, schools and beaches contaminated and the local population at risk of injury or death from the deadly remnants.
Collaboration between Handicap International’s community liaison teams and Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) teams has enabled prompt responses when weapons are found.
“When reported, we’ll visit immediately and more often than not the item can be taken away there and then,” said Ramshaw. “If it’s in a volatile state and too dangerous to move we’ll blow it up on the spot.
“It’s rewarding to see people so relieved when the threat is removed from their land,” Ramshaw added.
Clearance teams from Handicap International, the Danish De-mining Group, the Mine Advisory Group, the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action and the International Committee of the Red Cross all helped collect the weapons which were destroyed.
Handicap International has been building the capacity of the national EOD sector in Libya through training and transfer of technical skills. Locally-recruited and trained Risk Education and EOD teams established in Sirte and Misrata have now been working for a year.
The NGO estimates that some 94,000 at-risk people have benefitted from its Risk Education projects. These are particularly aimed at children and young people, whose curiosity makes them vulnerable to the consequences of finding and playing with unexploded ordnance.
Handicap International, through funding from the Dutch and German governments, has so far removed over 45,000 items of unexploded and abandoned ordnance from 39,000 square metres of land across central Libya. In November last year, it destroyed 5,500 explosive items in Mistrata. [/restrict]