Wet, but still deadly: haul of Spanish Civil War mortar shells surfaces

One of the largest arsenals from the 1930s conflict has been discovered in aquifer in Teruel

When 75-year-old Ángel Gimeno disappeared on May 1 in the village of Monreal del Campo, in Teruel province, the local Civil Guard sent out a search party. Their hunt took them to the aquifer of Los Ojos del Río Jiloca, where divers scoured the depths of the waters. But while they didn’t find any sign of Gimeno, they discovered something else: a total of 538 81-caliber mortar shells, which had lain in this corner of Aragón since the 1930s.

“They were probably abandoned by a position from one of the sides during a battle to avoid the other using them later,” said a Civil Guard officer.

“This is the biggest explosives arsenal found in Aragón and one of the biggest in Spain,” said another officer who was tasked with carefully removing the shells, a delicate job that has been ongoing for the past two months.

According to data from the Civil Guard, more than 100 warnings have been registered in 2017

“All the shells were submerged in the marshy area at the bottom of the aquifer,” said a spokesman from the Civil Guard. “So far, they still haven’t been able to determine which side they belonged to because of the state they are in.”

The weapons were taken to a quarry close to Monreal del Campo, where bomb-disposal experts defused them before staging controlled explosions.

Eighty years after the Civil War, Aragón is still dealing with a number of similar discoveries. According to data from the Civil Guard, more than 100 warnings have been registered in 2017 concerning arms such as hand grenades, bombs and detonators left over from the conflict that took place between 1936 and 1939.

“It’s important to stress the extreme danger of these devices,” says an army spokesman. “If nothing is done, they remain latent and if they are then manipulated in any way at all, they are likely to explode.”

In 2013, a 66-year-old man and his 22-year-old son were seriously wounded after a piece of weaponry from the Civil War went off in a garage they were cleaning out in Teruel.

English version by Heather Galloway.


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