Bomb operation 'could take weeks'

ROYAL Navy divers have admitted it could take weeks to find the “misplaced” Felixstowe bomb in an operation that has already cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds.

Russell Claydon

ROYAL Navy divers have admitted it could take weeks to find the “misplaced” Felixstowe bomb in an operation that has already cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds.

The hunt for the 1,000lb Second World War bomb continues today - a week after it washed up on the seafront, causing hundreds of people to be evacuated.

The device was lost after it was towed out to sea to be detonated. Despite the search being widened over the weekend, it still has not been recovered.

Divers had been confident the bomb was within a 200-metre perimeter of where they original dropped it but have now scoured four other similar-sized areas to no avail.

The 13-strong Navy team is staying at the Dolphin Hotel in the resort while the recovery work is carried out and the overall cost of the operation is already believed to have cost tens of thousands.

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But last night the team said money was not been wasted and insisted the bomb would be found and dealt with, however long it took.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Hankey said: “What you have to bear in mind is the Navy is paid for whatever they are doing.

“At the end of the day the only expense going on here as I see it is travel and subsistence - they are in a hotel.

“Of course there is a cost attached to the operation but we want to try and find this bomb. But the cost is not as big as people say - the kit is already bought and the Navy is paid for on a daily basis by the taxpayer.”

The 13-man team are now using an unmanned computer-operated submarine called Remus to picture the seabed to locate suspicious objects for their dives. The 5ft 8in torpedo-shaped equipment was driven down to Felixstowe from Scotland, whilst the divers themselves made the trip from the south coast.

“The contacts we have been finding with the Remus equipment have proved not to be the bomb,” said Lt Cdr Hankey.

“The good news is the equipment is working and we are finding a variety of things and able to look at this stuff and we are now widening the search area.

“We are doing this as diligently as we can and this takes time. The main thing is this bomb is off the beach and away from an area where it can do significant damage or harm.”

Warrant officer Robin Rickard, who is leading the diving team, said they were now working 15-hour days in an attempt to finish the job.

Conditions are still said to be hampering the operation with underwater visibility at zero and strong tidal streams meaning the bomb could have moved a “significant” distance.

“We will continue to search until we are told not to,” said Lt Cdr Hankey. “That is an operational requirement and if another job comes up and we have been here a month then we might have to say the bomb has rolled out to sea. But we will continue to search for the foreseeable future.”

He added: “We may be here days, weeks - it is a decision that has not been looked at yet.”

The bomb - thought to be a 1,000lb German SC type shell from 1942 - washed up on Felixstowe beach a week ago, causing more than 1,000 residents to be asked to leave their seaside homes.

Experts from the Royal Navy's Bomb Disposal Unit said the bomb - thought to be one of the largest ever to be washed up on Britain's coastline - had the potential to “flatten” a huge area of the town's seafront if it exploded on the beach - and cause collateral damage up to half a mile inland.

It was towed out to sea last Tuesday with the intention of detonating it that day but conditions delayed it and then it became apparent strong currents had moved its position overnight with the strops connected to it breaking free.

Officers said no global positioning system device had been attached to the bomb.

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