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Isle of Wight bomb disposal operation postponed

22 May 2012

An operation to remove two World War Two pipe mines from land near Cowes has been put on hold over fears one of the mines could have damaged local businesses nearby. On May 20 disposal experts, Ramora UK, successfully removed one pipe mine located close to the Island’s main gas pipe on land owned by BAE Systems.

The first of two bombs was destroyed, but a second on the Cowes site will have to wait for further ground works
The first of two bombs was destroyed, but a second on the Cowes site will have to wait for further ground works

However plans to remove a second pipe mine have been put on hold after the team discovered that it was about 2m larger than expected and that it bowed significantly in the middle.

The discovery has meant that further ground works will need to be carried out to ensure the safe removal of the pipe mine.

A spokesperson from BAE Systems told local news sources, “Until a cordon is in place it is not possible to determine the full scale of impact as the safety of the public is of top priority. During the weekend the team decided that there was a risk of damage to infrastructure and local businesses by detonating the second pipe mine without additional mitigation and considerations. The pressure caused by low cloud cover over the weekend might have caused a controlled explosion to blow out the windows of nearby businesses, and therefore the decision was made to postpone the detonation of the second pipe mine to allow for further preparations.”

The spokesperson added, “Safety first was the top priority during the excavation and removal of the pipe mines. With any project like this there is an element of the unknown and until the cordon was in place we couldn’t fully know the extent of the explosives. On Ramora UK’s advice we were happy to support the decision to carry out further exploration works; to ensure that through the remediation of the land at the Somerton site we do not cause any impact to businesses or residents. We will work with all agencies to plan for the future removal of the pipe mine so that the land can be developed.”

The BAE Systems Cowes site was part of a military airfield (RAF Somerton) during WWII. The pipe mines were laid during the war so that the airfield could be rendered unusable in the event of enemy invasion.

The pipe mines were discovered during a geophysical survey which was carried out in order that the land could be sold to make way for a new Aldi supermarket.

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