An Australian citizen and his British colleague have been killed in a blast in the Solomon Islands, local police have said.
- The bomb blast could reportedly be heard up to five kilometres away
- Authorities are investigating why the blast took place in a residential area
- Bomb disposal squads have been in Honiara to clear bombs ahead of the Pacific Games in 2023
The two men, who have yet to be officially named, were workers for the NGO Norwegian Peoples Aid, which maps out World War II explosives.
Inspector Clifford Tunuki said police were working overnight to clear the site of the explosion, which took place in a residential area in the capital Honiara.
“Explosives ordinance disposal officers will have to render the scene safe before forensics and other investigators access the scene to find out what happened,” Inspector Tunuki said.
Investigators will try to determine why explosives were present at a block of residential flats, which also serve as the project office.
A spokesperson for Norwegian Peoples Aid said they were “deeply sorry” for the “tragic accident” involving two of their staff.
It is understood the two men were sent to hospital but were later declared dead.
“We are working hard to inform all relatives, and to support the Solomon Island Police in their investigation,” Hakon Odegaard said.
Thousands of bombs to be cleared
The Solomon Islands are a former World War II battleground and they are littered with thousands of bombs and unexploded explosives.
Workers are in the capital clearing sites of bombs ahead of the 2023 Pacific Games.
The city is located on Guadalcanal Island, a former battleground for the allied offensive against Japan 77 years ago.
The Norwegian project works with police to identify and create a database of unexploded bombs and explosives.
“The survey team goes out to confirm the location of the unexploded ordinances following reports from the communities and the information is relayed to us,” Inspector Tunuki said.
“We determine what to do with the unexploded ordinances after the survey has located them.”
The evening blast could reportedly be heard up to five kilometres away, with panicked residents jumping on social media to track the source of the explosion.
Local journalist Dorothy Wickham was at the scene and described it as chaotic.
“A lot of people are shocked, people are asking why these people had bombs in a residential area,” Wickham said.
Dr John Hue, medical superintendent at the National Referral Hospital, told the ABC a post mortem would be carried out on Tuesday morning.
The ABC has contacted the offices of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, and the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke.