12 Feb 2017

WWII bomb forces huge evacuation in Greece

8:19 am on 12 February 2017

At least 70,000 people in the Greek city of Thessaloniki are being evacuated so that a 500lb World War Two bomb can be defused, officials say.

Military officers try to evacuate an unexploded World War II bomb in Thessaloniki, Greece

Military officers at the site where the bomb was found in Thessaloniki, Greece. Photo: AFP

It is thought to be one of the largest wartime bombs to be found in urban Greece in addition to being one of the largest mass evacuations.

The bomb was discovered during road works last week and is due to be disposed of on Sunday (local time).

Officials say it is too degraded to tell if it is German or an Allied bomb.

Residents within a radius of about 2km of the bomb will have to evacuate the area before Sunday morning, security officials said.

The military said an operation of this size and complexity is the first of its kind in a densely populated area of Greece and the disposal operation should take about eight hours - but may take as long as two days.

About 1000 police officers and 300 volunteers will be deployed ahead of the disposal operation. People in the city were warned to vacate their homes several days in advance.

The evacuation is expected to cause considerable disruption in Thessaloniki, with about 450 residents of a refugee camp due to be among thousands of others being evacuated to schools, sports halls and cultural centres.

The bomb was discovered last week near a petrol station during work to expand fuel storage tanks.

An unexploded bomb of WWII was found during excavation at gas station in Kordelio in the western suburb of Thessaloniki, on February 1, 2017.

The gas station where the bomb was found. Photo: AFP

A state of emergency has been declared in the three municipalities affected by the defusion operation, Thessaloniki's deputy governor Voula Patoulidou told the Associated Press.

"It is the first time something like this is happening in Greece,'' he said.

"The transfer of all residents is mandatory and we will go door-to-door to make sure everyone leaves."

The military said it would initially try to defuse the bomb's detonator before taking the device to an army firing range, where a decision be made as to how best neutralise it.


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