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Pacific edition, Wednesday, April 25, 2007

CHATAN, Okinawa — A water hazard warning is up for the Miyagi Seawall area of Chatan for Wednesday — but it has nothing to do with rough sea conditions.

The popular dive site will be closed from 10 a.m. to noon while the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force disposes of a bomb left over from the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

A Japanese diver discovered the bomb March 13 on the sea bottom about 50 to 65 feet offshore, said Jun Tamanaha of General Affairs Department of Chatan Town Office.

An ordnance disposal team from Ground Self-Defense Force examined the bomb March 23 and determined it would be unsafe to remove from the water to render harmless. Instead, the bomb was moved to a safer location about 1,640 feet from the coast.

All water activity within a 300-yard radius will be prohibited, a spokesman for Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force said Monday. Diving will be restricted in a 1.8-mile area. If weather does not permit the disposal of the bomb on Wednesday, it will be attempted on Thursday during the same hours.

Japanese bomb-disposal units frequently are called on to defuse and dispose of unexploded ordnance left over from the 83-day Battle of Okinawa, known locally as the “Typhoon of Steel.”

It is estimated that about 200,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Okinawa during the battle. In the 62 years following the end of World War II, some 7,030 tons of ordnance have been uncovered and destroyed.

Self-Defense Force officials believe there are still some 2,500 tons of unexploded munitions buried on Okinawa and in the surrounding waters.

About 30 tons of unexploded bombs are uncovered and destroyed here each year, said Masaru Kaneko, a spokesman for the JGSDF in Naha. “At this rate, it will take another 80 years to make Okinawa free of these old, unexploded bombs,” he said.

Most unexploded bombs are found in construction sites on southern Okinawa, where much of the battle took place, Kaneko said.

-- Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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