Sunken wreck may wipe out London in massive explosion

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Sunken wreck may wipe out London in massive explosion

This is one of those articles that read like the plot from a B grade movie. A sunken WW2 shipwreck in the London estuary may explode at any time and destroy a large part of London.

In the Thames estuary, 60 kilometres from central London, lies the 60-year-old ship of the American liberty ship Richard Montgomery.

It still carries 1400 tonnes of TNT, and according to a report commissioned by the UK government, an explosion is "increasingly probable with the passing of time". Which makes it odd that it has taken four years to publish the report, which will appear this week.

New Scientist revealed last year that the then secret report warned of the dangers posed by the ship (21 August 2004, p 36).

The wreck is disintegrating and is likely to start collapsing in 10 to 20 years' time.

"Experience from other similar wrecks indicate that the explosion of one munition is likely to result in a mass explosion," the report says.

... Quote:
It would be the world's biggest non-nuclear explosion apart from volcanoes, and would cause 1 billion of damage and widespread injuries to the public.

Removing the explosives would mean evacuating 40,000 people for six months. The report's favoured solution is to build an 1800-metre earthwork around the wreck to deaden the blast of the explosion.
By netchicken: posted on 24-1-2005

This site has pictures of the shipwreck on the floor of the channel.

The SS RICHARD MONTGOMERY was a US Liberty Ship of 7146 gross tons. She was built in 1943 by the St John’s River Shipbuilding Company of Jacksonville, Florida and was one of over 2700 of these mass-produced vessels built to carry vital supplies for the war effort.

In August 1944 the ship was loaded with a cargo of some 7000 tons of munitions and joined convoy HX-301 bound for the UK and then on to Cherbourg. On arrival in the Thames Estuary, the vessel was directed to anchor in the Great Nore anchorage off Sheerness.

The ship was to await the formation of a convoy to continue the journey across the Channel. However, on the 20th August 1944, she dragged her anchor in the shallow water and grounded on a sandbank running east from the Isle of Grain approximately 250m north of the Medway Approach Channel.

The vessel grounded amidships on the crest of the sandbank and intensive efforts began to unload her in order to lighten the vessel so that she could be refloated and also to save the cargo of munitions that were vital for the Allies post-D-Day advancement.

Unfortunately, by the next day, a crack appeared in the hull and the forward end began to flood. The salvage effort continued until the 25th September, by which time approximately half the cargo had been successfully removed.

The salvage effort had to be abandoned when the vessel finally flooded completely.

The wreck of the SS RICHARD MONTGOMERY remains on the sandbank where she sank. The shipwreck lies across the tide close to the Medway Approach Channel and her masts are clearly visible above the water at all states of the tide. There are still approximately 1,400 tons of explosives contained within the forward holds.
By netchicken: posted on 9-2-2007

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