Landscaping crew digs up 30 live mortar shells

Published: Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 2:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 2:58 p.m.

KEY WEST, Fla. - A landscaping crew about to grind a tree stump stumbled across 30 World War II mortar shells buried in the ground on property once owned by the U.S. Navy.

A worker hit and broke one of the live shells Friday, but it did not detonate. The mortars could have done serious damage had they exploded, Sgt. Bobby Randolph of the Monroe County Sheriff's office said.

As a precaution, about a dozen homes were evacuated and all cars were cleared from the immediate area when a bomb squad removed the explosives.

"People get really excited about bombs, as well they should," sheriff's spokeswoman Becky Herrin said.

Herrin said authorities would contact Naval officials to "see if they want to destroy them. If not, we will."

Some bombs and shells used in World Wars I and II are loaded with phosphorous and can easily burst into flame on exposure to the atmosphere.

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