Handicap International destroyed 25 tons of explosive remnants of war in Misrata on Dec. 12. This massive explosion is Handicap International's second in 2013. During the two operations, Handicap International demolished more than 22,000 conventional weapons collected over the past year, ensuring the weapons could no longer pose a threat to the local population.
Such an operation demands close coordination with air traffic control, which cleared air space, and required road closures in and out of the area. Misratan radio also announced the planned explosion to ensure the local population anticipated the sound and flash.
With those precautions in place, Handicap International teams executed the meticulously planned demolition of scores of 152mm projectiles, each weighing almost 100 pounds.
“These explosive remnants of war were collected by two Handicap International teams conducting clearance operations in a weapons and munitions storage area in Misrata (that was) bombed by NATO," explains Paul McCullough, the Head of mission for Handicap International in Libya. "Thousands of munitions and unexploded ordnance had been scattered across a radius of nearly 1.5 sq.km, threatening the lives of civilians."
"Some of them do not hesitate to enter the bunkers in search of brass and copper, alloys which fetch high prices on the metal market," he adds. "The salvaging of explosives for fishing is also common. To retrieve these metals and explosives, civilians use hammers or chisels and these highly unstable explosive remnants of war can explode at any moment. Several people are already reported to have been killed.”
Handicap International has been working in Libya since the conflict's early days, more than two years ago. Since then, teams have worked to protect communities from the potentially devastating impact of arms, ammunition, and unexploded ordnance deployed or abandoned during the fighting.
Handicap International’s actions are showing results, with 30 sq.km. of inhabited land secured and restored to the local population since April 2011.
The charity is conducting clearance operations in Misrata, but also raising awareness of the lethal danger posed by mines and explosive remnants of war by showing people the simple steps they can take to avoid accidents. More than 110,000 Libyans have attended Handicap International awareness-raising sessions. The majority of risk education sessions are geared toward children, who are often tragically the main victims of such weapons.