Last year I posted an article about the WWII munitions still present and put to use in Bougainville. They remain a hazard to locals, with some using them as weapons and others using the gun powder to create bombs for killing fish. Sometimes there are tragic consequences…
An American WWII mortar bomb exploded two weeks ago in the southern district of Torokina, taking the left leg and hand of Sylvester Minel. The story was captured by Gorethy Kenneth in the Post Courier on Wednesday 10 March. I will quote her directly:
"Eye witnesses told this reporter in Buka that Sylvester … was 'playing around' with the live mortar bomb when it went off blasting his legs into pieces and cutting off his arms.
He is in critical condition at the Buka General Hospital after being rushed to the hospital on a motorised dinghy from Torokina.
His leg was amputated as it was badly damaged and beyond construction while his right leg had an iron rod inserted to support the bones."
A local constable was quoted as saying that Sylvester was hitting the live mortar with a hammer and chisel to remove the bomb's fuse and powder. The intention was then to turn that into dynamite to blast fish in the ocean for an easy catch. The constable goes on to say that this "is now a practice young people in the area are obsessed with."
My grandfather was responsible for managing munitions stores in Italy during WWII. I wonder what he would make of all this.