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Göttingen: 4 World War II bombs prompt evacuation

January 31, 2021

German bomb disposal expert detonated four WWII bombs after thousands of Göttingen residents were forced to leave their homes. Officials had suspended some of the anti-pandemic measures during the evacuation effort.

A row of containers next to where the bombs were discovered
A total of 1,800 people, including hundreds of police officers, took part in the evacuation effortImage: Martin Dziadek/imago images

Disposal experts detonated four WWII bombs in Göttingen early Sunday after a mass evacuation in the central Germany city.

The 500-kilo (1,102 pound) bombs with long-life fuses were dropped by the US military during the war.

After detonating the bombs, the teams checked the area for damage and allowed most of the residents to return home.

Windowpanes in three buildings were destroyed by the pressure wave from the explosion, which meant some residents could not immediately go home.

Rainer Nolte, head of the Göttingen police department, told local media that the evacuation went mostly according to plan.

The bomb disposal work had earlier been delayed twice because people remained in the restricted area after the evacuation order. Police escorted two of them out of the danger zone.

Göttingen authorities used police drones to check whether any individuals were still in the restricted area, as well as to check for damage after the bombs were defused.

German soldier and a civilian official sit at a desk in a Göttingen evacuation center
German military is helping coordinate the evacuation effortImage: Swen Pförtner/dpa/picture alliance

Mass evacuation

On Saturday, more than 8,000 people left their homes in Göttingen, with police, firefighters and the German army all taking part in the large-scale evacuation effort.

The officials decided to clear the area after four suspicious objects were found at a construction site in the center of the city.

All four were later confirmed to be unexploded WWII bombs.

Bomb disposal experts had set up protective barricades around the site, including stacked shipping containers filled with special water balloons to absorb the impact.

City officials also had warned people on the edges of the restricted zone to go indoors and stay away from the windows ahead of the detonation. "Despite protective walls surrounding the site, bits of debris can fly far," they said in their online ticker.

Where did everybody go?

Earlier on Saturday, police posted a picture from the scene, warning people to stay away from the danger zone.

"The bomb disposal service has to halt their work over every report that there are people in the restricted area," they said.


Göttingen authorities previously called on the city residents to clear the area within 1,000 meters (1,094 yards) of the site.

"Please be prepared for a long day," they said in a flyer. "Expect that you will not be able to return to your flat until the next morning.

The officials had called on the evacuees to stay with their family or at the hotels outside the affected zone. The military had also set up evacuation centers.

What about the lockdown?

Although Germany is currently under an anti-pandemic lockdown, the authorities announced that some of the isolation measures would be suspended. People were temporarily allowed to mingle with their close relatives even if the group includes members of two or more households.

The authorities said they took extra precautions to avoid COVID-19 flareups. People who had tested positive, as well as those in close contact with them, were housed in a separate location. Additionally, people arriving at evacuation centers were checked for fever, and — if necessary — tested.

Mass evacuations because of unexploded WWII bombs are not uncommon in Germany, even many decades after the conflict's end. Most of them are handled as a matter of routine. However, the Göttingen operation reminded many of the deadly 2010 incident in the same city, when three members of a bomb disposal team were killed and six wounded during an attempt to disarm a WWII explosive device.

shs,dj/mm (dpa, AFP)

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