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Aerial photograph of bomb site in Dresden
Police released this photo of the Dresden bomb disposal site, shot from a helicopterImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Polizei Sachsen
Society

Explosion during Dresden WWII bomb defusal

May 24, 2018

An aerial World War II bomb partially exploded during an attempt to defuse it in the eastern city of Dresden. Bomb disposals are routine in Germany and rarely involve accidents.

https://p.dw.com/p/2yE5V

Demolition experts in the eastern city of Dresden successfully defused a WWII bomb on Thursday after initial efforts triggered a small explosion and a subsequent blaze.

An inconclusive defusing operation Wednesday set ablaze shock absorbent materials and left the 250-kilogram device obscured by rubble. To extinguish the blaze, experts used a special robot, supervised by helicopters and drones.

Read more: Defusing bombs - is there a safer way?

Police had earlier warned that the fire caused by the bomb partially exploding could lead to further blasts, with Dresden police chief Horst Kretzschmar saying the unearthed bomb had high explosive potential.

'It all looked normal'

"Now I feel better," said disposal expert Holger Klemig, who admitted at one stage on Wednesday his neck hair had stood on end.

"It all looked quite normal until the moment when we had a direct view of the detonator and noticed it looks somehow different than normal," said Klemig.

The leftover British device had been found during construction work on Tuesday, prompting evacuations from senior residents' homes and partial road, rail and aviation closures. On Wednesday evening, part of it exploded as experts were trying to get to the detonator. There was little damage, and no one was hurt.

Residents in emergency shelter in Dresden
Nearly 9,000 Dresden residents had to go to emergency shelters like this trade fair hallImage: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Halkasch

"At this point, we don't know what amount of explosives we're dealing with, and that's why the bomb remains extremely dangerous," police said during the defusal process.

Nearly 9,000 people in Löbtau, which is near the main station, had to be evacuated on Tuesday, spending two nights in a row away in emergency accomodation.

One veteran resident, Manfred Leuteritz, 91, said he had spent the two days well in improvised accommodation, but for some of his contemporaries the evacuation prompted traumatic memories.

"Wartime leaves no one alone," said Leuteritz, who in 1945 experienced the air raids on Dresden as a [German] soldier.

City pummeled

Germany's eastern Elbe River metropolis was pummeled by Allied air raids in February 1945, killing up to 25,000 civilians as Hitler's Nazi regime crumbled.

Bomb disposals are routine in Germany and often involve evacuations. However, they rarely involve major complications. Bomb disposal experts can usually access the detonator, but in this current case, it was difficult to prise out, causing the explosion.

Read more: Dresden marks 70 years since Allied bombing

Dresden has seen its fair share of bomb disposals, as the city was heavily bombed by British and US forces towards the end of World War II on February 13, 1945.

ipj, ng/aw (dpa, AFP, AP)

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