British, Australian national die while clearing WWII bomb in the Solomon Islands

Cheryl Sanders
September 22, 2020

Police say the two men, one Australian and one British national, were working for Non-Government Organisation Norwegian Peoples Aid, performing sweeps for World War II explosives when the blast occurred.

It was not immediately clear if the employees of Norwegian People's Aid were trying to defuse live munitions at the time of the explosion in Honiara late on Sunday.

Police said they are still investigating but believe the men had several unexploded bombs at the office and may have been carrying out work to disarm them.

Following the blast, residents rushed to the scene to find the men seriously injured, the Solomons Star newspaper reported.

The agency had been assisting local authorities with developing a database of bombs dropped during the Second World War, where the Pacific nation was the scene of fierce land and aerial battles between US and Japanese forces.

This was confirmed by a statement from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force who said that the survey team typically goes out first to confirm the location of unexploded ordnances before relaying the information to them.

Categorizing the incident as a "tragic accident", NPA Deputy Secretary-General Per Nergaard said in a statement that an "investigation needs to be completed before there can be a conclusion on the cause of events". In a statement on its website, he said: "So far, we know that there has been an explosion with fatal consequences. Our main priority now is to offer assistance to relatives and colleagues and to clarify what has happened", he said.

"The safety and security of our staff is our highest priority", Nergaard said.

"We are devastated by what has happened, and for the loss of two good colleagues", said NPA's secretary general Henriette Killi Westhrin.

The NPA has 1850 deminers working in 19 countries worldwide.

Guadalcanal, the island which is home to the capital Honiara, was site of one the most significant battles of World War II in the Pacific.

"On behalf of the RSIPF I wish to convey my honest condolences to family and relatives of those two foreign nationals who died in this tragic incident", Tunuki said.

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