It remains unclear how the large American aerial bomb wound up in a pile of metal scrap at the recycling centre just 800 metres from the heavily trafficked Köhlbrandbrücke, a fire department spokesperson said.
Experts from the city’s ordnance disposal unit planned to defuse the bomb in late afternoon, but first had to evacuate the surrounding 300-metre area and create a 1,000-metre warning area where residents and workers were instructed to remain indoors during the operation.
About 100 people were evacuated in the industrial area, while the bridge and two harbour docks were also due to be closed.
Friday’s case was unusual because unexploded war ordnance is usually found underground during construction work, the fire department spokesperson said.
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 June of this year three members of an experienced bomb squad were killed and two seriously injured in Göttingen when a 500-kilogramme bomb they were trying to defuse exploded. 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.