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Dredging at Disney site yields WWII-era bombs

Expert foresees no danger when Hong Kong park opens

SHARE Dredging at Disney site yields WWII-era bombs

HONG KONG — Workers dredging sand to reclaim land for a Disney theme park are turning up a huge harvest of old bombs, police explosives experts said Monday.

World War II era bombs are found from time to time in Hong Kong, but the dredgers are working in waters used as a dumping ground by the British military for decades, so they're discovering several bombs a week and keeping disposal crews far busier than usual.

A few of the bombs made it from the dredging site to the area where the theme park will be built, several miles away. There have been no explosions, but the bombs have to be defused.

Alick McWhirter, an assistant bomb disposal officer, predicted some bombs would likely go undetected and be buried at the site where Disneyland will open its park in 2005, but he said there would be no danger if that happens.

"Once it goes into the landfill, that's about it, unless you're tossing it around," McWhirter said. "Once it goes into the landfill, it's not really an issue."

Most of the explosives are six-inch artillery shells that could cause "extensive damage" if they were to go off, but the greatest risk is to the dredging crews, McWhirter said.

Police found two bombs over the weekend, bringing the total to 45 bombs and unexploded shells since workers began dredging mud in October from south of Hong Kong island.

About four or five made it to the reclamation site in an area called Penny's Bay on outlying Lantau Island, McWhirter said.

Disney spokeswoman Marie Garvey said the dredging is a Hong Kong government project and Disney executives will not have access to the reclamation site until next year.

"As we understand, it is not an unusual occurrence in this area," Garvey said by telephone from California. "We've been assured by the government that they're taking every precaution."

Authorities frequently find bombs in areas of Hong Kong that were hit by U.S. and Allied air raids during the Japanese occupation of 1941-45. The British army dumped old bombs in the waters off Hong Kong from the 1950s until the 1970s, McWhirter said.

Work crews also fished up numerous bombs and shells while dredging mud to reclaim land for Hong Kong's new Chek Lap Kok airport, he said.

McWhirter said a bomb blew up inside a dredging vessel in 1993, sinking the boat.

About a year ago, police found two 500-pound U.S. bombs left over from World War II in two Hong Kong construction sites. About 1,000 people were evacuated from a hospital and nearby university housing while one of the bombs was defused.