U.S. successfully concludes program to support Albania in clearing site of 2008 munitions explosion.
In December, 2012, the U.S. Department of State successfully concluded a $14.5 million program to support Albania as it works to safely clear the site of a deadly 2008 munitions explosion. The program removed 3,085 tons of unexploded ordnance and 146,500 pieces of dangerous munitions.
The March 15, 2008 explosions at a former military base in Gërdec resulted in 26 deaths and over 300 injuries, and forced more than 700 families from their homes.
At the request of Albanian authorities, the United States offered assistance and arranged for an expert assessment followed by the clearance of unexploded artillery shells, mortar shells, and other munitions.
For nearly five years, technical experts from ITF Enhancing Human Security, Sterling International, and EOD Solutions funded by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs trained and supervised local Albanian workers who cleared 257 acres [104 hectares] of unexploded munitions up to 8 meters deep, including giant craters caused by the massive explosions.
The teams recovered over 734 tons of metal from munitions and other blast debris and turned this scrap, worth millions of dollars, over to the Albanian Ministry of Defense.
In addition, thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment used at Gërdec is being donated by the United States to the Albanian Mine and Munitions Coordination Office to continue clearance at former military sites throughout the country.
Parts of Gërdec remain contaminated and, as with any munitions incident of this magnitude, it is likely that explosives will continue to be found at the site for the foreseeable future.
The U.S. has assisted the Government of Albania’s efforts to destroy their immense communist era stockpiles of weapons and munitions since 2000. In addition to the Gërdec cleanup, the USG is currently assisting with Albania’s industrial demilitarization program through a grant to the NATO Support Agency (NSPA). The U.S. has donated $6 million over three years to NSPA to assist with demilitarization and upgrades at the explosives factory at Mjekës.
The U.S. is the largest international donor to Albania’s industrial demilitarization program and has spent approximately $100 million on demilitarization efforts in Albania through both the Department of State (PM/WRA) and Defense Department (Defense Threat Reduction Agency, DTRA) programs.
The U.S. is proud to work with its partner, Albania, to help protect the Albanian people from the dangers posed by the aging weapons of war.