Germany: Evacuations as Dortmund scans for suspected WWII bombs | News | DW | 11.01.2020

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Germany: Evacuations as Dortmund scans for suspected WWII bombs

Evacuations of some 14,000 residents have begun in Dortmund, in western Germany, as experts prepare to find and disarm four bombs suspected buried since WWII. Also closed on Sunday will be its Football Museum.

The evacuations in Dortmund were part of preparations for Sunday's bomb removals by a special civilian disposal team, in what has become a frequent scenario over the some 80 years since Allied forces dropped millions of bombs on Germany.

An estimated 10% penetrated the ground and failed to detonate, prompting dozens of bomb disposals in recent years in cities such as Koblenz, Augsburg, Dresden and Frankfurt.

Starting Saturday, Dortmund — Germany's ninth-largest city — was due to evacuate hundreds of people from two clinics and senior-persons residencies from what's called its "clinic quarter" (Klinikviertel), just southwest of its main railway station.

"It's not quite been an evacuation, with us it's more been a redistribution," a receptionist at Klinikum Dortmund told DW. "We've moved people through the building and some people have been moved to other hospitals. It's all under control."

An empty street in the evacuation area

Several streets in Dortmund were completely evacuated of people ahead of the bomb disposal efforts

Praising the response of hospitals in the area, one patient told DW the evacuation was being dealt with superbly. 

"The nurses came and helped some people move from section 'A' to section 'B' this morning. Of course, some people went home instead, it's the weekend anyway. I'll probably go home this evening. But today, my ward has become a private room, I've been all alone, completely peaceful and quiet and no traffic noise outside."

Sunday's main disarmament phase will see buses and rail services disrupted, including an express link to Dortmund's regional airport, which is to stay open for flights.

Dortmund's nationally featured Football Museum said it too would be closed on Sunday — as a precaution — as Dortmund city positioned shipping containers to absorb potential shock waves. 

Read more: Dresden WWII bomb partially explodes during disposal

Leave by breakfast!

Other precinct residents were told to vacate their apartments and homes by breakfast time (8 a.m.) on Sunday, taking with them items such as baby food and pets, it's not yet known when they will be able to return.

"That depends on how quickly the area can been cleared and what we find," said Arnulf Rybicki, Dortmund city's housing and infrastructure department chief.

Definite scheduling would only be possible when disposal experts, who in recent months pinpointed substrate anomalies, expose the suspected ordinance, reported public broadcaster WDR.

Dortmund hospital evacuation

A young patient is escorted from a children's hospital to an ambulance. Due to four suspected unexploded bombs, hundreds of patients from two hospitals have been evacuated for safety

Construction: Scan before breaking ground

Construction projects — as are planned for Dortmund's precinct  — are typically preceded in Germany by checks for unexploded ordnance, often using old Allied aerial photos showing World War Two impact craters.

An evacuation center for residents unable to stay with relatives or friends is being set up in Dortmund's Scharnhorst Primary School. To pass the time, free entry is available at Dortmund's zoo and its Südbad swimming complex.

Dortmund, with 587,000 residents, is the hub of the Rhein-Ruhr metropolitan area, which is comprised of 11 million residents. Outside of the evacuation area, life in the city continued as always. 

In 1943 then-Nazi Germany's key industrial zone was pummeled by Allied bombers, including a British raid on central Dortmund on the night of May 4/5, 1943. 

Bomb in Hamburg

The removal of WWII bombs in Germany has become frequent. This 250-kilo bomb was removed in Hamburg in June 2019

DW's Elliot Douglas contributed reporting from Dortmund

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