Thousands evacuated for WWII bomb clean up

Around 15,000 inhabitants of Langenhagen near Hannover were evacuated from their homes Sunday morning while authorities prepared to defuse several World War II bombs.

Thousands evacuated for WWII bomb clean up
Photo: DPA

A police spokesman told reporters that the evacuations, which also affected part of Hannover, would be completed by midday, after which the bombs would be diffused by an explosive ordnance disposal unit.

As many as six unexploded weapons are thought to be buried in the area. They were discovered during the analysis of aerial photographs of the region.

About 1,000 volunteers aided in the evacuation, which is also likely to cause considerable disruption to rail services.

According to the police, the majority of the evacuees have found lodging with friends and family, though schools have also been made available, primarily to house residents of two retirement homes in the area.

More than 60 years after the end of World War II, weapons recovery remains an important task for police throughout Germany. Allied forces dropped more than 2.7 million tonnes of explosives across Germany during the war. Some of the ordnance did not explode and has become increasingly dangerous with time and corrosion.

Entire neighbourhoods are frequently evacuated for bomb removal, and most are safely defused. Construction and road workers are trained to call emergency services the moment they suspect they’ve found unexploded ordnance, but accidents still occasionally happen.

In 1994, three construction workers were killed and eight bystanders injured when an unexpected bomb detonated, tearing through nearby buildings and cars in Berlin. In 2006, a road worker was killed near Frankfurt when his excavator hit a bomb.