Hong Kong police launch air-land-sea lockdown for underwater demining after war device found containing over 220kg of explosives

Hong Kong police have launched an air-land-sea lockdown in the southeastern part of the city in preparation for an underwater operation to destroy a wartime naval mine filled with more than 220 kg (485 pounds) of high explosives.

Acting Chief Superintendent Suryanto Chin-chiu of the force’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal office said Thursday it was the first time a complete British-made mine had been discovered in the city in three decades.

Divers from the force’s elite squad, known as the Flying Tigers, and bomb disposal officers were deployed to locate the mine after it was spotted by a diver on the seabed off the coast of Cape D’Aguilar on August 8.

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Police will carry out an operation to remove the mine from the waters between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday.

According to strength, the mine was discovered at a depth of 15 meters (49 feet), 1.5 km (0.9 miles) northeast of Cape D’Aguilar.

Suryanto said he believed the device was laid down by Britain’s Royal Navy during World War II and remained there for more than 70 years.

“Shells have grown on its surface, which also shows signs of seawater erosion,” he said.

He warned that even though the mine had lain at the bottom of the sea for decades, its explosive contents could still explode. “If someone or a ship accidentally comes into contact with the mine or someone deliberately interferes with it, the risk of an explosion cannot be ignored,” he said.

A wartime naval mine filled with over 220 kg of high explosives.  Picture: handout

Taking into account factors such as the amount of explosives contained and the depth of the water, Suryanto said the initial assessment showed that the affected area would extend up to 1 km from the naval mine if an explosion was triggered.

But he said the Cape D’Aguilar Marine Protected Area and areas where people live and work on the shore would not be affected, adding that no evacuations were needed.

For security reasons, he said police had imposed restricted areas on land and at sea since midday Thursday, adding that the airspace around Cape D’Aguilar would also be listed as a temporary restricted flying area for small unmanned aircraft such as drones between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Fridays.

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With Cape D’Aguilar being a popular site for hiking, diving and paragliding, the Acting Chief Superintendent called on the public to stay away from the restricted area during the police operation.

Chai Wan Divisional Commander Superintendent Chiang Shui-ching said the cordoned off areas covered popular spots such as Bukhara Battery, Crab Cave, Whale Bone and Cape D’Aguilar Lighthouse. .

She said people with valid reasons, such as those who live or work in the affected area, would be allowed to enter the area after being cleared by the police.

Suryanto said the force was capable and confident of clearing the mine safely, adding that around 500 officers would be deployed in the operation.

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