Members of a Cambodian demining unit working with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were in Mammari on Wednesday as part of an operation to locate landmines that may have inadvertently been displaced into the buffer zone through flooding.
Since the operation began ten days ago, members of the 21-strong Cambodian demining unit have swept 1,994 square metres and found an anti-tank mine that was washed into the buffer zone from the north during heavy rainfall in October 2012. The mine was due to be detonated later yesterday.
The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) yesterday held a site visit for a small number of journalists to the Mammari Mine Hazard Area.
UNFICYP Chief of Staff Colonel Angus Loudon told reporters that in October 2012 there was heavy rainfall resulting with a flood from the northern side of the buffer zone north of Mammari village, a few kilometres west of Nicosia, potentially washing mine hazards into the buffer zone.
As the area is used for agricultural purposes, Loudon said it was important to establish whether there was a threat “and then deal with that threat”.
The area has been fenced off, barbed wire was placed and signs erected. “Every step was taken to ensure the safety of anyone who could be in the area,” he added.
The team is about one quarter of the way through the operation and hope to finish by the end of May. Loudon said the operation was a confidence building measure of sorts as both sides had been cooperative “and this type of cooperation is relatively unusual,” he said.
“There are still four minefields inside the compounds of the buffer zone,” he said.
He clarified that UNFICYP did not have a responsibility to clear the mines but required the cooperation of the two sides. The other minefields are in south Famagusta (Dherynia) and three in Louroudjina.
UNFICYP Mine Project Coordinator Major Jo Ramsumair said the UNFIL team would next move on to the Dherynia area.
On Wednesday the members of the unit gave an on-site clearance demonstration, showcasing the methods used for the detection of mines.
According to UNFICYP, teams of deminers associated with the UN Mine Action Centre in Cyprus (UNMACC) worked to rid the 180-km-long buffer zone of landmines originally laid by military forces in 1974.
The deminers cleared and destroyed over 25,000 landmines, taking a major step towards a mine-free buffer zone and ultimately a mine-free Cyprus. (CNA)