Kwazulu-Natal police have declared Durban beaches safe for visitors after warning the public to beware of unexploded ordnance after finding a number of badly corroded artillery shells in the sand over the last two weeks.
The Sowetan newspaper reports six shells were found on a beach in front of the city’s Addington Hospital. This triggered an intensive search by the police’s bomb disposal unit, which subsequently found three more shells buried in the sand on Tuesday.
Police said the beach was immediately cordoned off and paramedics were in attendance in case of an explosion.
The search continued Wednesday – but the beaches were then opened to the public after the assurance by bomb experts that the devices were not harmful.
Police spokeswoman Senior Superintendent Phindile Hadebe said “bombs as old as from the 1950s, a type used in World War Two, were found.
“The search for more bombs is continuing, though they are not dangerous,” she said.
The origin of the ordnance remains a mystery.
It has been suggested the shells, of various calibre, may have come from the coast defence battery atop The Bluff until 1955 or from naval stores or from a supply dump. A local source says naval charts of the area show that ammunition had been dumped at sea off the beach and that the shells may have been brought ashore by strong tides.
It was quite common to dump unwanted munitions at sea until about the 1990s. Typically this was done in deep water far from shore. An example of this was mustard gas dumped in deepwater Algoa Bay after World War Two.