WWII bombs pose danger to German coast

At least 115 deaths and 35 serious injuries have been caused by leftover bombs and munitions from the Second and First World War off of Germany's North Sea coast since 1945, according to marine biologist Stefan Nehring in Koblenz.

WWII bombs pose danger to German coast
500 kg WWII bomb detonated in 2006 near Sassnitz. Photo: DPA

Nehring, who presented a study on has unexploded military ordinance off Germany’s Baltic Sea in late 2007, criticized the government’s lack of public information on the country’s dangerous war legacy on Tuesday.

British and American bombers dropped almost 2.7 million tonnes of bombs on Germany during WWII. Many missed their targets and did not go off, a buried threat that affects construction, forestry, farming and fisheries. Bomb cleanup remains a task throughout Germany, and large bombs are periodically discovered at construction sites.

Nehring estimated that old bombs in both the North Sea and Baltic Sea have claimed 283 lives since the end of WWII, though he says the numbers are hazy because fisheries don’t document every incident. He encouraged the German military and officials to name concrete numbers so that those people working along the coast will be aware of their vulnerability.

Plans for a new gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea have made the German military realize it’s impossible to clean up all of the munitions, Nehring said. “The Bundeswehr isn’t the only protector of the sea,” he said. “There are many users who need to be warned.”

In addition to WWII ordinance, Nehring said there were large stretches of water where the Bundeswehr, East Germany’s military, as well as Soviet and NATO forces have left remnants of munitions practice.

According to Nehring’s estimates, some 400,000 tonnes of munitions lie on the floor of the North Sea – 300,000 tonnes of which lie inside a 12-nautical-mile zone.

Lower Saxony’s head of hazardous waste and military ordnance disposal Karsten Wolff said that no matter where old munition lies, it poses a danger.”I advocate absolute openness and active information for German citizens,” he said.