Explosive Cache Could Be Biggest Ever Found in Estonia30 May 2012
May has been a busy month for the nation's bomb squads, but no one expected a find on the scale of one made late last week. Bomb deactivation personnel on the outskirts of Tallinn found 15 tons of TNT and other explosives that had been buried for more than 75 years - the biggest such find since independence was regained.
It started as an ordinary call for the squad on May 24. An unidentified person was seen avidly digging in the area and, as the areas is historically associated with the defense industry, the specialists were tipped off.
Initially the responders found a hand grenade and a small quantity of explosives. But more and more material kept surfacing into the evening.
"We were shocked the next day as large pieces started to be uncovered. We're used to reckoning quantities in grams," said Arno Pugonen of the Rescue Board's bomb squad.
It took three days to complete the work. By midnight on Sunday, the area was TNT-free. The explosives were sent by special police and Defense Forces escort to a facility in Tapa, where the material was destroyed in a controlled explosion.
Pugonen said the find comprised a mixed bag of old, unstable explosives, including one type that was toxic.
Military historian Mati Õun said the explosives - highly unstable and dangerous - could have been cached after an explosion at an ammunition factory in 1936.
The factory was in the process of extracting explosive from old naval mines and reloading it into artillery shells. An estimated nine tons exploded, and shattering windows miles away in the garden town of Nõmme.
Õun said the incident was the largest peacetime accident in Estonia, claiming 63 lives
After the plant was closed, Õun said, apparently the path of least resistance was taken with regard to disposing of the remaining munitions
"They weren't about to go far, just poured it into pits and there it stayed for 75 years," he said.
"It's certainly a complete surprise to me that they pursued this course during the first republic, but there is nothing new under the sun. All kinds of outrageous shortcuts are taken in re-independent Estonia and it was the same in the old one."
Estonian Public Broadcasting