After almost two weeks of around-the-clock mine clearing, U.S. naval officials believe it's now safe to reopen Kuwait's largest port to commercial traffic.
"We don't know what Saddam's people did, so we should still be on the lookout," said Capt. John Shick of San Diego, leader of a Navy diving team that's been mine-hunting with British and Australian teams for the last week to clear Kuwait's main deep water port at Ash Shabayah.Shick said the Pentagon's original war plan counted on using the port as the central supply depot for the Marine assault on Kuwait City. But the sea assault never came off.
Now, Shick said, his efforts are to clear the port of mines and turn it over to the Kuwaiti government so the looted country can get the massive cargoes it needs to rebuild.
Shick said his teams so far have discovered about a dozen Iraqi mines that were torn from their moorings and blown ashore during recent storms. (See picture at right.)
But data the Iraqis have turned over to the coalition detailing their sea-mining operations indicate there were a total of 1,117 mines sown in the waters around Kuwait.
According to British estimates, only about 300 have so far been found, blown up or otherwise accounted for.