Solomon Island bomb blast kills one Australian and one British man

Solomons AustAAP
Taiwan China Solomon Islands
Camera IconTaiwan China Solomon Islands Credit: TheWest

An Australian man and a British man working to identify unexploded World War II bombs in the Solomon Islands have been killed in a blast in the capital Honiara.

Australian Trent Lee and Briton Luke Atkinson died in a rented apartment in Tasahe in West Honiara between 7.30pm and 8pm on Sunday night, Solomons police and their aid agency have confirmed.

Both men were bomb specialists working for an overseas-funded project that maps unexploded bomb sites for later disposal by specialist police teams.

Following the blast, residents rushed to the scene to find the men seriously injured, the Solomons Star newspaper reported. They were rushed to Honiara's National Referral Hospital.

One of the men died at the scene while the other was confirmed dead at the hospital.

A Solomons police statement said the blast area had been sealed off and officers of the explosive ordnance disposal team and forensics department were at the scene.

"We call on members of the public in the Tasahe area to please stay well away from the area of the incident and allow RSIPF officers to do their work as we investigate this tragic incident," Inspector Clifford Tunuki said.

The residential flats also served a the project office for the bomb survey team and investigators will try to determine why explosives were present.

The two men were working for Norwegian non-government organisation, Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA), conducting a non-technical survey on the contamination of unexploded ordnances in the Solomons, the police media statement said.

The US State Department funds the project.

NPA deputy secretary-general Per Nergaard confirmed in a statement that Mr Lee and Mr Atkinson had died in the blast.

"This is a tragic accident. So far, we know that there has been an explosion with fatal consequences. Our main priority now is to offer assistance to relatives and colleagues and to clarify what has happened," he said.

"The safety and security of our staff is our highest priority."

NPA secretary-general Henriette Killi Westhrin said the organisation was devastated by the loss of two good colleagues.

"Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to their families, relatives and staff," she said.

The NPA has 1850 deminers working in 19 countries worldwide.

Honiara is on the island of Guadalcanal, which was a major battleground when US forces invaded to dislodge the Japanese occupiers in World War II.

A program has been underway to clear unexploded ordnance in Honiara before the 2023 Pacific Games.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been contacted for comment.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails