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Venice shuts down for WWII-era bomb removal

February 2, 2020

Transport has been disrupted in the popular destination after a bomb was discovered during sewer repair work. Authorities have even shut down the airspace as they defuse the bomb.

A gondola in Venice
Image: picture-alliance/blickwinkel/S. Oehlschlaeger

Authorities in the Italian city of Venice mobilized on Sunday in an effort to remove and defuse a World War II-era bomb.

Transportation by boat, train and bus was halted during the operation from 8:30 a.m. (0730 UTC) to 12:30 p.m. Even planes were barred from flying to and from Venice's Marco Polo Airport during that time frame.

Police announced that traffic would be rerouted on some roads and canals, warning tourists to expect transportation delays.

The discovery prompted curiosity and anticipation in among residents, with local media dubbing the event the "Bomba Day" and sharing the hashtag on Twitter, along with videos and photos from the scene.

The WWII bomb surfaced during a maintenance crew's excavations to repair sewer lines. Weighing roughly 225 kilograms (500 pounds) and containing about 129 kilograms of explosives, the bomb is set to be detonated at sea.

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The operation to get rid of the bomb required the evacuation of some 3,500 city residents first. Next, crews worked to remove the fuses from the explosive device.

Crews worked on the bomb in the port of Marghera, a mostly industrial area separated from the tourist city by water.

Gianluca Dello Monacco, commander of the army regiment in charge of defusing the bomb, told Italian television station Rai24 that the precautions and evacuations were justified.

"It still carried a high risk of explosion," Dello Monacco said.

Although Venice's historic center was structurally spared from the fighting in World War II, the city's surrounding areas suffered from bombardment.  An air raid in 1945 by British and US forces, known as Operation Bowler, specifically targeted the harbor and led to the city's liberation.

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jcg/aw (Reuters, AFP)