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De-miners in Misrata, making the rubble safe - picture essay


A de-mining team run by one of the world’s largest humanitarian networks is clearing rebel-controlled Misrata of tons of unexploded ordnance to bring safety to the city’s civilians.

In a race against time to clear live munitions in the battle-torn Libyan city before normal life resumes, de-mining experts are rendering ordnance safe and training civilians in the delicate art of de-activating warheads.

Macabre museums of unexploded shells, warheads and mines have sprung up around the city since bombing by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces and Nato airstrikes began. A deadly new hobby of arms tourism is in vogue with children using the battle zones as playgrounds, where they risk losing limbs and their lives.

For Briton Richard MacCormack, head of the de-mining team run by global aid network ACT Alliance, there is a moral imperative incumbent on all armed forces in the conflict to see that the residual risk to the civilian population is cleaned up. ACT staff on the ground in Misrata have learned of cases of a number of children evacuated to Tunisia with limbs lost to unexploded ordnance.

And the danger for those that carry out this most extreme of humanitarian missions is that they themselves could lose their limbs – or even their lives.