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Philippines emergency response

by Sean Sutton, MAG | MAG (Mines Advisory Group)
Friday, 14 February 2014 11:04 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Typhoon Haiyan caused a huge storm surge, five to eight metres high, to hit the city of Tacloban in the Philippines.

An ammunition storage depot at Tacloban airport was very badly damaged, and stored munitions (including air-to-air rockets with white phosphorous warheads) were dispersed over a wide area where civilians are currently trying to rebuild amongst the debris.

At least 300 rocket warheads and motors, along with small arms, associated ammunition and .50 calibre heavy machine gun rounds were scattered by the storm, some buried in the mud and debris that has been left in the aftermath.

While military staff were able to retrieve half of the rockets and some of the heavy machine gun rounds, the authorities requested MAG's assistance.

"We know that rocket motors from 2.75 inch rockets, which are typically used by helicopters, were dispersed by the storm surge across a wide area," explains  MAG's Senior Technical Advisor, Daan Redelinghuys.

"Sixty-one of these have already been found by the community and reported to the police. If someone was to tamper with one of the rocket motors, the highly sensitive propellent could explode – with lethal results.

"At this time, people are trying to rebuild their lives amongst the debris of the typhoon. If one accident was to happen, the fear and insecurity this would cause is the last thing that people who've already suffered so much need, and could have a huge impact on the rehabilitation efforts."