The massive task of clearing the Suez Canal, closed since the Middle East war of 1967, has reached its second stage.
The massive task of clearing the Suez Canal, closed since the Middle East war of 1967, has reached its second stage. The United States Navy is in charge of the operation, which involves British, French and US minesweepers all engaged in clearing the canal of wrecks, bridges and unexploded mines left over from two wars.
The US navy, apart from supervising the removal of ten wrecks by a salvage company, is also training Egyptian soldiers to detect and dispose of unexplod mines.
In the first stage of the clearance operation two months ago broken-down bridges were removed and the banks of the canal were cleared back 200 yards. US helicopters began the task of minesweeping, which is now being taken up in earnest by French, British and Egyptian divers clearing the water itself.
The canal, 101 miles (160 km) long, was filled with shells, wrecks, bomb-filled aircraft and tanks by the end of the war. Egypt, which formerly derived the major pat of its income from the canal, is hoping the task of clearance will be finished by next summer. Japan, Kuwait, and the World Bank have all offered substantial loans and the Egyptian government is planning major reconstruction of the area around the canal, including new cities and resorts.
It is thought that the twelve wrecks and forty small craft to be salvaged may bring millions of pounds in acrap alone, and several trapped vessels may be able to said again with hardly any overhaul. Out nothing can navigate the canal safely until minesweepers, equipped with electronic and aonar detaction devices, have cleared it.
SYNOPSIS: Suez, where the one hundred mile canal closed for nearly seven years, is being cleared by the navies of four countries in the hope that the world's ships will be using it again by next summer.
Minesweepers from Britain, France and the United States are taking part in the last stage of a massive operation to clear unexploded bombs and mines planted in the canal during the Middle East ware. Soon, dozens of vessels, tanks and aircraft will be salvaged from the water.
Responsibility for the operation has been handed to the United States Navy. The US is financing the eighty-five million dollar operation from foreign aid funds. Egyptian soldiers trained by American experts have begun clearing the canal's banks in the biggest overhaul in the canal's hundred and five year history.
When the canal is safe, and providing the insurance companies are satisfied, the international shipping traffic that once brought Egypt over two hundred million dollars a year will again begin to flow, benefitting ports from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.
But, despite generous offers of foreign capital for reconstruction and irrigation projects, the bombed-out townships are a stark reminder that the Middle East conflict could flare up again. Egypt has made it clear that without some kind of settlement, the canal may not reopen at all.