September 2020 – Two explosives experts were killed Sunday in a blast in the Solomon Islands while surveying munitions left over from WWII.
The men, one British and one Australian, worked for Norwegian People’s Aid and were reportedly undertaking a “non-technical survey of explosive remnants” of the war, according to the police statement.
“We do not know what exactly happened that led to the bomb blast,” but a preliminary investigation indicates the pair had several pieces of unexploded ordnance, or UXO, at their home “and they may have been conducting some UXO work,” said police Inspector Clifford Tunuki, who is overseeing the investigation, in the statement.
Norwegian People’s Aid, a nongovernmental organization that has been working in the Solomons since 2019, has suspended its operation, according to the statement.
The group has been helping island authorities create a database of known and suspected unexploded ordnance.
Guadalcanal, the Solomons’ main island, was the site of the first major U.S. ground offensive against the Japanese empire.
Between Aug 7, 1942, and Feb 9, 1943, air, land and sea battles there claimed the lives of about 30,000 Japanese and 7,000 U.S. and Allied troops along with two U.S. aircraft carriers, numerous other ships and hundreds of aircraft before Japanese forces evacuated. In the 75 years since the war ended, dozens of people in the Solomon Islands are believed to have been killed or maimed by the munitions, but a lack of funding has impeded removal efforts.
“Our objective in this program is to contribute to a safer Solomon Islands free from explosive remnants from the Second World War,” Breivik said in the statement.
This year the group has found and reported 500 items of unexploded ordnance on Guadalcanal, according to the statement.
Solomon Islands police explosive ordnance teams are the only entity authorized to render safe, move and dispose of unexploded ordnance found in the country, the group said.