The fire in the Karst exposed another danger of the area – unexploded ordnance (UXO), which has been there since the First World War. They have already removed more than 250 with a total weight of 1.4 tons. According to Darko Zonjič, the commander of the state unit for protection against UXO, the true dimensions will only be revealed, as only a part of the area of the fire was examined. According to expert estimates, there are still around 70 kilograms of unexploded ordnance per square meter in the areas where the fighting raged.
Many explosions could be heard from the scene of the fire during the raging of the fire element, from weaker to quite strong – depending on the size of the explosive body that exploded. It is estimated that there were more than 500 detonations. Therefore, among those who slept little during the fire was also the commander of the state unit for protection against UXO Darko Zonjic.
“The luck in the accident was that the explosions were in those zones that we somehow predicted and mapped out. The most important thing is that the firefighters followed our safety instructions, because otherwise there could really be a disaster,Zonjič said in an interview with STA.
As he added, there were also some really “close encounters” with the detonations, but luckily no injuries occurred.
“So far, we have removed more than 250 pieces of various unexploded ordnance with a total weight of 1.4 tons. But that’s not all. When we will be able to enter the fire site after the fire has been completely extinguished, the true picture will emerge of how many of these remains remain in the area of the Goriška Karst.”
According to expert assessments, there are still around 70 kilograms of unexploded ordnance per square meter in the areas where the Soča Front raged more than a hundred years ago.
As for UXO, movement on the terrain is somewhat safer only when the fire has been extinguished for more than 48 hours. “Although there are still hot spots where explosions can still occur. Therefore, we warn that walking on the fire site is still dangerous,Zonjic warned.
Pyrotechnicians are still inspecting the edges of the fire. Most of the UXO found and detonated were 75mm Italian and Austrian cannon shells. They were followed in number by 100 mm Austrian shells.
“So far we haven’t gotten any 150mm shells, but I kind of expect them in the center of the fire area below Veliki vrh. So far we have only examined a very small part of the fire area,Zonjic warned.
Very large caliber UXOs are mostly underground, as they buried deep when they fell. These then explode only in case of great overheating of the earth during fires, a temperature of around 300 degrees Celsius is required, he added.
Some of the shells were in a pile, where they were probably brought by scrap metal collectors right after the war. “Only the brass was collected from the grenades, because even then people knew exactly which ones were dangerous and which ones were not. Mostly, however, these are individual grenades that did not explode after being launched. If these missiles left after the war do not move, they do not explode, so we do not remember any such accidents for a long time,Zonjic explained.
The great danger of an explosion arises when inexperienced individuals start tampering with UXO or when there is a fire, he warned.
People should therefore not move found UXO in any way, but should remember and mark the location and inform the competent professional services or the information center about the find.