World War II bomb successfully defused after 45,000 are evacuated | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 04.12.2011
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World War II bomb successfully defused after 45,000 are evacuated

The discovery of three old, undetonated World War II bombs in the Rhine river led to the evacuation of around 45,000 citizens in the German city of Koblenz. The bombs have been successfully defused.

The 1.8-ton British bomb

The 1.8-ton British bomb led to one of Germany's biggest bomb-related evacuations

German authorities defused two undetonated World War II bombs found recently in the Rhine River, that forced the evacuation of nearly half the population of the city of Koblenz.

The bombs were discovered on November 20 after water levels in the Rhine fell due to lack of rain.

An empty highway in Koblenz

Train and car traffic was shut down

The order to evacuate came Sunday morning and affected around 45,000 people. Among the evacuees were patients in two hospitals, residents in seven retirement homes, and inmates at a prison.

Seven schools had been converted to temporary shelters for the displaced Koblenz residences, but these were reportedly scarcely being used as many people opted to stay with friends or relatives outside the evacuation zone.

Many left on Saturday as the date and time for the attempted defusing operation had already been set.

Three unexploded devices

The evacuation effort marked one of the biggest in post-war Germany due to unexploded World War II munitions, which are routinely uncovered during construction projects or in riverbeds.

The evacuation area encompassed an area two kilometres (1.2 miles) surrounding the bomb.

Police gather around the bombs in the river bed

The bombs were found in the river bed

The biggest unexploded device was a 1.8-ton British bomb. A 125-kilogram (275 pound) American bomb and a smokescreen device were also found. After the two bombs were defused, the smokescreen bomb was blown up in a controlled explosion.

Following the detonation, fire department conducted a check of the area to make sure no dangerous chemicals were still present. None were found, and the all-clear for residents to return to their homes was given early Sunday evening.

Sandbags were stacked around the bombs to divert river water and enable a bomb squad to work on the devices. The defusing operation lasted just over two hours.

Author: Matt Zuvela (AP, dpa, AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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