A potentially deadly explosive device used by fishermen has been removed from the wreck of the Um El Faroud off the coast of Wied iż-Żurrieq after it was discovered by divers on Sunday.

Ian Barbara, chairman of Calypso Subaqua Club, who was diving at the wreck - a diving attraction - said that 10 divers, including a few first-time divers, were exploring the former Libyan tanker when they saw the device.

"We kept away from it and returned to the surface shortly after," he said, adding that the AFM Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Unit was then alerted.

Such devices are intended to go off underwater to kill as many fish as possible, making it easier for fishermen to pick them up from the surface.

Sources close to the Armed Forces of Malta said that the effects of detonation would be far larger underwater. Had the bomb gone off and a diver was in the area, it would have killed him, he explained.

AFM divers were called and the device was rendered safe a short time after. The evidence was handed to Żurrieq district police for further investigations.

Members of the diving community urged fishermen not to engage in such practices and highlighted the threat such home-made bombs could have on divers.

When asked about the consequences an explosion would have had on the diving industry, Paul Sciberras, of DiveSystems, said: "Diving bases itself on safety and security and it would have been a disaster had the bomb had gone off, impacting heavily on the industry."

He noted that it was illegal to kill fish with any means in a protected area such as the Um El Faroud site, let alone with an explosive device such as the one found, which was illegal in itself.

The Um El Faroud blew up as a result of an accumulation of gases while it was at Malta Drydocks on February 3, 1995. Nine dockyard workers died. The ship was scuttled in 30 metres of water off Zurrieq in 1998 and later broke in two.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us