Sunken warship with 1,400 tonnes of explosives could explode in River Thames

A warship that sank to the bottom of the Thames in 1944 has been found with more than 1000 deadly explosives on board.

The Royal Navy has been called upon to help deconstruct the devices in a bid to stop there from being a "massive loss of life."

It comes after 14000 explosives were found onboard the SS Richard Montgomery – which has caused concern that they are unstable.

It has been confirmed that if they are disturbed or if there is any more deterioration to the ship – it could “trigger the unexploded ordnance”.

Bomb disposal experts trained in underwater demolitions have been tasked with making the ship safe.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is also worried by the closeness of the oil and gas facilities nearby at Sheerness, Kent could be under threat.

The report says if the explosives went off “it would throw a 300m wide column of water and debris nearly 3,000m into the air and generate a wave 5m high”, the Daily Telegraph reports.

A Department for Transport survey found the ship has three masts and they are all in a poor state and are deteriorating.

The MoD has warned that if one or all of the ship’s masts collapse the explosives could detonate.

An MoD document outlines a worst-case scenario in which: “The masts collapse or the operation to remove them causes them to do so causing an explosion impacting the local area including the nearby oil and gas facilities in Sheerness leading to mass damage and potential loss of life."

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Work to clear the site is due to start in June and should last around two months.

The SS Richard Montgomery was a US Liberty Ship of 7,146 gross tonnes, built in 1943 by the St John’s River Shipbuilding Company of Jacksonville, Florida.

The Second World War munitions ship was wrecked on the Nore sandbank in the Thames Estuary, near Sheerness, in August 1944.

The wreck is now under 24-hour radar surveillance until the work to make it safe is completed.

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