German schools evacuated after WWI chemical weapon find | News | DW | 16.09.2019
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German schools evacuated after WWI chemical weapon find

Two schools near Berlin had to be cleared after toxins were found on a nearby building site. Further investigation revealed the substances were in fact irritant gases from World War I.

Two schools in the German state of Brandenburg were evacuated on Monday as a precaution following the discovery of several vials of a toxic pharyngeal irritant dating back to World War I.

The chemical vials were found by a worker whose unit was excavating a site close to Leonardo Da Vinci Comprehensive School and a neighboring elementary school in Postdam, near Berlin.

Older students were allowed leave school unaccompanied, while minor pupils needed to wait for a parent to pick them up.

The quantities of toxins were so small that it posed no danger for the students, according to a Postdam city council spokeswoman, Juliane Güldner.

Several workers suffered respiratory irritations, though. The chemical was often used to test the strength of gas masks.

The explosive ordnance disposal service secured and removed the vials, which will be analyzed.

Residential complex

Construction projects in Germany typically require scans for hidden bombs before excavation works start. 

The Postdam site, comprising several fields, had been used by the military until the 1990s. 

Some fields had already been routinely searched for munitions and several others were being prepared for a housing development project when the discovery was made, local daily Märkische Allgemeine reported.

Read more: German WWI grenade found in potato shipment

Almost routine

Precautionary evacuations occur fairly frequently across Germany. 

In 2015, a 250-kilogram bomb was defused in Hanover during a nighttime operation that required the evacuation of 31,000 residents. That device had lain undetected for 70 years under school grounds.

Germany's largest bomb disposal took place in 2011 in Koblenz, where 45,000 people had to be evacuated while devices found on the riverbed during a drought were defused.

In Potsdam in 2014, a 250-kilogram device was defused after forcing a brief evacuation of the Brandenburg state parliament. The bomb originated from a British raid on the city on April 14, 1945.

In 2011, about 45,000 people had to be evacuated when a wartime bomb was found in the western city of Koblenz.

Read more: Who disarms Germany's WWII bombs?

Watch video 00:23

World War II bomb creates a spectacle

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kw/rt (dpa) 

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