French to clear mines unearthed by Hurricane Mitch
PARIS, Nov 5 (Reuters) - French de-mining experts were on their way to
Managua on Thursday to help hurricane-stricken Nicaragua confront a new
scourge -- 75,000 anti-personnel landmines scattered across the country by
The Foreign Ministry said six de-mining experts were among 130 French
rescuers due to land in Managua later in the day to be despatched to
Nicaragua and Honduras.
Their goal is to assess the dangers posed by the mines, a legacy of Central
American wars in the 1980s.
As part of France's rescue efforts, some 200 army engineers were due to
sail within 48 hours from bases in the French Caribbean to begin de-mining
operations and help rebuild roads and bridges swept away by Hurricane
Mitch, which killed up to 9,000 people across Central America.
Handicap International, the group spearheading a global campaign against
anti-personnel landmines, said about half the 150,000 landmines planted in
Nicaragua had been swept away by swollen rivers.
"These mines will hit at random populations whose priority is to survive
floods," it said. "The presence or the fear of those mines will also hamper
Handicap International said previous operations to remove landmines in
Nicaragua in the 1990s had been cut short by a lack of resources.
The French Foreign Ministry said a chartered Antonov 124 freight plane
would take off from Paris to Managua during the day with around 100
tonnes of other emergency relief, including water purification equipment,
medical kits, blankets and tents.
The Defence Ministry was sending a C-160 transport plane to help medical
rescue operations in NIcaragua and Honduras.
Aircraft from the French Caribbean would also help.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.