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The Baltic timebomb

Dumped German wartime munitions

German and Scandinavian experts are warning of an environmental catastrophe in the Baltic, as thousands of tons of ammunition dumped after the Second World War begin to wash up on shorelines, the newspaper The Scotsman reports. Last year, some 6,000 pounds of bombs were fished up by trawlers. The paper reported that many crew members suffered serious burns as a result.

The Scottish paper reported that seismologists in several countries have charted underground blasts in the past two years as the explosives shift, become ever more unstable and finally detonate. Nothing that the most dangerous elements are dumped casks of Tabun—a deadly nerve agent which Hitler's scientists developed but never used on the battlefield.  U.S. forces charged with ridding post-war Germany of its mighty unspent arsenal logged half a million barrels of Tabun being dumped in the sea in 1945 and 1946. Which means, say experts, the real figure is probably much higher.

This subject has long been an area of concern for countries surrounding the Baltic Sea, and numerous clean-up operations have been successfully mounted. Most agree, however, that it would be impossible to rid the sea of all the war’s detritus. The subject, having been covered in depth (but not yet ad nauseum), is certainly a welcome one. If coverage in the western press brings attention and funding for cleanup, that can only be a good thing.