Idyllic Alps Village On WWII Bomb Dump May Explode

This idyllic alpine village could be blown sky high for the second time at any moment as it teeters dangerously atop an ammunition dump packed with explosives, experts claim.

Residents of the village of Mitholz, in the Canton of Bern in Switzerland, which was partly destroyed in the previous explosion, are being warned their lives and homes are in danger.

Credit: CEN
The Mitholz explosion of 19th December 1947 was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions

The ammunition dump, under a 100-metre (330-foot) cliff overlooking the Alpine village, blew up in December 1947, in a series of huge explosions, destroying half the village and killing nine people.

But an estimated 3,500 tonnes of ammunition and several hundred tonnes of explosives are still intact in the remains of the depot and further explosions are inevitable according to experts.

A new report, carried out by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment with help from German experts at the Fraunhofer Institute for Short-Term Dynamics, spells out the dangers.

It says a “small explosion” equivalent to one tonne of TNT is likely every 300 years – and a bigger explosion with an explosive power of 10 tonnes of TNT could happen every 3,000 years.

Credit: CEN
The destroyed train station after the 1947 ammunition depot explosion

The report concluded the risks were unacceptable for the population of Mitholz, and nearby villages, as the cliff and the buildings below it could be destroyed.

The Swiss Defence Ministry has reached the same conclusion and is now searching for ways to make safe the underground ammunition depot.

The depot is currently being monitored around the clock with CCTV and thermal cameras, as well as sensors which can detect gases escaping from the depot.

The first explosion is believed to have been caused by a chemical reaction in an igniter which triggered a chain reaction.

The Defence Ministry is investigating whether the ammo and explosives can be safely removed using robots or a remote-controlled excavator.

The Ministry announced that a prototype for such an excavator could be ready within one to two years.

Credit: CEN
The locals want the whole ammunition depot to be cleared

But local residents and politicians are demanding immediate action to remove the threat.

Jurg Grossen, an MP for the Green Liberal Party of Switzerland (GLP), said: “Concrete plans have to be put on the table.

“If this danger existed in a more populated area, they would surely have moved faster than they have done in Mitholz.”

Switzerland was neutral during World War II but stockpiled arms in the Swiss Alps in a strategy aimed at deterring a possible German invasion.


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Story By: Koen BerghuisSub-EditorJoseph Golder, Agency: Central European News

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