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TIMEBOMB II; Sunday Mail reveals where deadly poisons were dumped off Scotland.

Byline: MARION SCOTT EXCLUSIVE

THOUSANDS of tons of deadly poisons have been dumped in the sea around Scotland, the Sunday Mail can reveal today.

Some 24 ships, containing 145,000 tons of biological weapons, were scuppered off Britain's coasts after World War II.

Deadly Sarin gas and cyanide-based poisons were among the chemicals sunk and at least ten of the ships went down in Scottish waters.

Ex-seamen, still bound by the Official Secrets Act, claim anthrax spores were also dumped.

The revelation comes a week after we told how 500,000 tons of poisons were leaking from ships scuttled in the Baltic Sea.

Western Isles Council is demanding a Ministry of Defence probe into the state of the ships, fearing the disintegrating hulks may also be leaking chemicals into the sea.

They are worried deep-water trawlers may disturb the rusting vessels, unleashing an ecological timebomb.

Councillor Angus Nicolson, chairman of the Western Isles Environmental Services Committee, said: "This is no time for secrecy.

"We must find out what these ships contained, and strenuous efforts must be made to render the sites safe.

"If the MoD cannot tell us what chemicals were dumped in various sites, there are seamen still alive who do know.

"They are bound by the Official Secrets Act, but have information that could save lives.

"This must be made public before it is lost forever."

The MoD has repeatedly turned down pleas to probe the mystery cargoes,.

They claim they pose no significant risk to safety, human health, or the marine environment. The ships sunk in Scottish waters included The Leighton, Empire Claire, Vogtland, Kotka and Empire Fal.

The rusting hulks were scuppered in a number of sites - 50 and 100 miles west of the Hebrides, in Beaufort's Dyke off the Galloway coast, 800 miles north-west of Northern Ireland, and 250 miles south-west of Land's End.

In 1955, tons of chemical bombs were secretly dumped 80 miles off Cairnryan, six miles north of Stranraer. Operation Sandcastle was "classified" by the MoD.

The Empire Claire held 16,000 nerve gas bombs, the Vogtland had nearly 29,000, and the Kotka went down fully loaded with 25,928 bombs, plus 330 tons of deadly chemicals.

An estimated one million tons of conventional munitions were dumped in Beaufort's Dyke from 1946 to 1963.

Scots MP Jimmy Wray has demanded a full investigation, and an international clean-up before lives are lost.

Last night he praised the Sunday Mail for uncovering the dump sites off Scotland's coast.

He said: "You have been able to tell me what the MoD has failed to do.

"The Minister must lift the gag on seamen involved and statements must be taken before important facts are lost forever. This is no time for secrets. We must take steps to prevent an ecological disaster."

The Ministry of Defence claim finding and identifying wrecks is likely to be expensive, with no guarantee of success.

Costs could reach up to pounds 50,000 a day.

Around 4000 phosphorous-based incendiary bombs came ashore along the west coast of Scotland in 1997.

Paul Johnston, principal scientist for Greenpeace International, said: "The lack of monitoring is inexcusable given the threat to fisheries and the potential impact on human health."
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 17, 2002
Words:536
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