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Kerala expert helps clear Lankan mines

[Express Buzz, Sunday, 27 December 2009 12:19 No Comment]

Maj K RAJU, formerly of Madras Sappers and Miners, is helping the Sri Lankan authorities rid the northern battlefields of landmines and other improvised explosive devices (IED) laid by the LTTE.

A native of Thiruvananthapuram, Raju and his team of de-miners from the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) started work in the rice bowl area of Mannar district and gradually worked their way to Periyathampanai and Pannivirichchan in Vavuniya district.

The total number of mines in north Sri Lanka is officially estimated to be 1.5 million.

Raju told visiting journalists at Periyathampanai, that the FSD had cleared 2 lakh sq m and removed 4,589 anti-personnel mines and 12 anti-tank mines.

In Pannivirichchan, they cleared 1 lakh sq m.

Over 600 Tamil families, who are currently living in refugee camps in Vavuniya district, are expected to return to Periyathampanai and over 100 to Pannivirichchan.

Like other de-mining groups, the FSD has had to work overtime, because the Sri Lankan government had announced that it would close the refugee camps by January 31, next year, paving the way for the speedy resettlement of all the 280,000 war refugees presently housed in camps and transit shelters.

“But progress is slow because of the jungle that had grown during the war. And the monsoon is adding to the problems,” Raju said.

No method in the madness

The task of demining in the island nation is tough because the LTTE had not laid mines in any predictable manner. The mines also have more than the normal amount of explosive packed into them.

“The LTTE’s mines have 30 to 60 gms of explosive. A normal mine will have up to 30 gms. In Mannar, we found a house with 180 mines in it! The LTTE had apparently expected government troops to enter the house in large numbers,” Maj K Raju of Swiss Foundation for Mine Action said. The mines and other IEDs used by the LTTE are locally made. “We were familiar with the LTTE’s Jonny mines.

But this time we found mines carrying the inscription Maj.

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