Australia destroys World War II chemical weapons cache

The Australian military has destroyed a World War II chemical weapons cache in Columboola, Australia, located in the Darling Downs farming region in southern Queensland.

Authorities had built a storage facility for U.S. chemical weapons and artillery munitions that had fallen into disuse. In 2009, surveyors working for a mining company found 140 shells there believed to contain mustard gas, ABC Australia reports.

Military officials closed the site and called in a team of U.S. experts. David Feeney, the parliamentary secretary for defense, said that even after 60 years, the mustard gas was still active and could have posed a threat.

The $34 million destruction operation included the erection of a detonation chamber on the site to destroy the weapons, according to ABC Australia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, mustard gas, also known as sulfur mustard, is a type of chemical warfare agent that causes blistering of the skin and mucous membranes upon contact. The weapon was introduced during World War I as a chemical warfare agent. Mustard gas is typically not fatal and symptoms tend to occur approximately two to 24 hours after exposure.

Symptoms include itching and redness in the skin; pain, irritation, swelling and tearing in the eyes; sneezing, hoarseness, sinus pain, bloody or runny nose from the respiratory tract; and pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting from the digestive tract.