24 Jan 2023

US boost to clear Solomon Islands of old bombs before Games

11:20 am on 24 January 2023
Unexploded WW2 bombs being detonated at Hells Point.

Unexploded WW2 bombs being detonated at Hells Point. Photo: Solomon Islands Police

The US Department of State has provided $US1 million to help clear the Solomon Islands of unexploded World War II bombs before this year's Pacific Games.

The State Department has provided funding to The HALO Trust to run the initiative, which will be held in conjunction with the country's Ministry of National Police and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.

Inside the Games reports this project is part of President Joe Biden's plans to re-establish better relations with the Pacific and help counter the growing influence of China in the region.

The US has provided more than $US6.8 million to Solomon Islands since 2011 to help identify and destroy unexploded ordnances (UXO) of World War II.

This has included training 13 engineers who have conducted more than 1200 UXO callouts and destroyed more than 29,746 items of unexploded bombs.

As part of the latest initiative, the US will work together with Solomon Islands officials to use existing data and historical records, as well as conducting search activities to update the national database.

The US funding will also provide technical advice while assisting the Ministry of National Police to establish a UXO coordination office to assist future initiatives.

Researchers estimate that every year more than 20 people are killed or seriously injured in the Pacific when one of the thousands of unexploded World War II-era bombs left behind by the US and Japan is set off.

In 2020, two men, one British, one Australian, were killed in Solomon Islands helping clear unexploded bombs for the Games.

The South Pacific nation was a key battleground and its islands, including Guadalcanal, are littered with remnants from land and sea clashes between Allied and Japanese forces.

Earlier this month it was announced that Washington would reopen the United States Embassy in Honiara.

The Pacific Games are scheduled to take place from November 19 to December 2.