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Explosion of munitions ship off Folkestone should be a warning to Thames Estuary airport planners

Contributed by editor on Jun 06, 2012 - 03:27 PM

An MP has warned the explosion risk from a sunken WW2 munitions ship off Sheerness in the Thames Estuary makes airport plans a non-starter.


Reporting on the HazardEx website of an attempt in July 1967 to retrieve the cargo of the Kielce, a Polish munitions ship which sunk off Folkestone in 1946, Cambridge Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert warned: "The last time we tried to move a similar wreck (to the Richard Montgomery) it exploded."

 

The Southend Timeline website wrote of the explosion off Folkestone: "Kielce was only 32ft down and lying on its side, most of the munitions were removed with small detonators used to fragment the hull to a safe height. However it was found that some were trapped under a bulkhead it was decided to fragment this enabling to recovery of the bombs.

"Upon detonating the mine the 100 tons of explosives under the bulkhead also detonated and a plume of water was reported to have reached at least 500ft into the air. Richter scale equipment on the Western Coast of America recorded the blast as a 4.5 or a -0.5 earthquake. The blast was heard over 7 miles away with many houses being damaged.

 

"Investigations after the incident found a creator measuring 153ft x 63ft x 20ft deep on the seabed with very little of the wreck left..

"The Kielce was at least 3 or 4 miles from land whereas the Richard Montgomery is just a 1mile. The Kielce was in 32ft of water and the Richard Montgomery can be seen above the water at low tide. The Kielce had just a fraction of what the Richard Montgomery has on board."

Luckily no one was injured in the explosion near Folkestone.

The most recent study indicates the hull of the wreck of the Richard Montgomery off Sheerness is still deteriorating, and the risk of an explosion, although unlikely, cannot be ruled out..


Mr Huppert is reported on the Hazardex website saying: "If this cargo ship was disrupted by construction (of the airport) the explosion would blow out every window in Sheerness, and create a 16ft wave just outside the capital."
 

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