Thu, Feb 19, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Project to clear up Kinmen landmines to start next month

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

A project to clear landmines in the Mashan (馬山) area of Kinmen is scheduled to begin on March 2 and last for four months, the Kinmen Defense Command said yesterday.

The Mashan de-mining operations will be carried out by the Singaporean Explomo Technical Services Pte Ltd over an area of 140,000m2 in three stages, the defense command said.

Explomo, which won the de-mining contract in an open bid last year, will clear landmines in six minefields in Kinmen covering 214,900m2 this year, while the de-mining team of the Army Engineers Corps will clear 21 minefields covering a total area of about 389,900m2, the command said.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Explomo project manager Huang Jou-li (黃柔立) said that the first stage of the Mashan operations would be highly dangerous because it involves manual work in shallow minefields mostly in the beachside casuarina woods.

Daily traffic controls will be in place around the Mashan area from 5:30am to 9:30am and 3:30pm to 5:30pm in the first month of operations, Huang said.

Huang gave assurances that the Explomo operators would mark any graves in the area and not disturb them. Any human remains found in the process will be collected and stored for interment in a shrine that will be built in Kinmen, he said.

In December, the Kinmen Defense Command ordered that de-mining operations over a 20 hectare area in Kuningtou Village (古寧頭) be suspended pending consultations with the island’s residents, who complained that the demining destroyed nearly 1,000 of their ancestors’ graves.

Kuningtou was the site of a 1949 battle in which Republic of China forces defeated two invading regiments of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

The shores of Kinmen — Taiwan’s farthest outpost in the military standoff with China — were carpeted with landmines during the peak hostilities between the two sides in the 1950s. More than 70,000 mines were believed to have been left in more than 150 minefields on the island.

In the 1950s and 1960s, many civilians were killed or maimed when they accidentally stepped on the explosive devices.

As cross-strait tensions eased, the government lifted the wartime regulations in 1992 and ended Kinmen’s status as a combat zone. The move allowed the island to open to tourism, prompting the need to clear the landmines from areas no longer under military control.

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