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Analysis and Documentation of the Mitholz Underground Ammunition Storage Accidental Explosion in Switzerland

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Conference paper

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A catastrophic accident took place, a year and half after the end of the Second World War December 19 - 20, 1947, in one of the most modem underground ammunition storage magazines in Switzerland. The accident resulted in three major explosions in which nine persons from the nearby village perished. Initial estimates indicated that almost 7000 tons of ammunition was stored at the site. Almost 3000 tons was detonated, deflagrated, or burned causing structural damage. The remaining ammunition was thrown out and spread around the storage facility along with induced secondary fragments. The products of explosion, airblast, debris and fragments, caused the destruction of several houses and the local railway station in the village of Mitholz. The Swiss authorities conducted the necessary investigation to document the mishap following the accident in late December 1947. In 1993, a new investigative and analytical approach was developed under the United States Air Force SBIR Phases I and II. This approach, Bakhtar Explosives Safety Criteria, was tested and successfully verified at several sites in the United States and Europe. To further document the event at Mitholz and help to prevent future accidents, it was decided to perform a more elaborate investigation using the site specific information on the induced fragment ranges, and the geologic and engineered systems. This paper provides a systematic approach proposed for such investigations. It was anticipated that prior to the DDESB Seminar in August 1996, an opportunity would arise to perform site characterization at the Mitholz facility. However this did not happen and the plans are to perform such studies in the upcoming year. The site specific information obtained from the accident site will be used to demonstrate the method of analysis. The overall approach is presented in this paper.

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  • Explosions

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