Record low water levels lead to discovery of World War II bomb in Cologne

Extremely low water levels in the river Rhine in Cologne have exposed a bomb from the Second World war, estimated to weigh between 50 to 125kg.

Record low water levels lead to discovery of  World War II bomb in Cologne
Ships cross the Rhine, which is suffering from record low water levels, at low tide. Photo: DPA

The police found the unexploded ordnance on Wednesday evening in the river, near the steel-suspension Rodenkirchen bridge in the western German city, reports RP Online.

According to initial estimates, the explosive device weighs 50 to 125 kg and is an American air bomb from the Second World War, Cologne city authorities said.

A bomb disposal squad was on site Thursday checking whether there was a detonator on the device. 

Cologne authorities issued a statement saying the bomb had been damaged so it could not be defused, according to bomb experts. A controlled explosion will now be planned.

The statement said: “Preparations for a controlled explosion are currently underway. Further details about the bomb are not yet known.”

An update from Cologne authorities on Twitter. 'The bomb in the Cologne-Poll area has to be blown up'

When this happens shipping traffic will be banned from the river. It's also possible that the residential areas and businesses in the surrounding area will have to be evacuated so that the bomb can be defused safely.

Unexploded bombs are scattered throughout Germany more than 70 years after the end of World War II.

Just over a week ago in Potsdam, thousands of people were removed from their homes while bomb disposal teams exploded and defused an American World War II bomb.

The Rhine currently has its lowest ever amount of water. In Emmerich, the water level has reached a record low of 22 centimeters – six centimeters below the lowest known water level on October 1st, 2003.

In Cologne, authorities expects the Rhine level to fall below the previous low water record of 0.81 meters from 2003 this week. For Thursday, Cologne's municipal sewerage companies expect a level of 0.80 metres.

SEE ALSO: Thousands evacuated as World War II bomb discovered in Potsdam

The low tide is already causing massive problems to freight traffic on the river, which is the second-longest river in Central and Western Europe – after the Danube – at about 1,230 km

Freight firms have raised concerns about losses because of the disruption the low water levels have caused.  There are also problems with passenger transport. The Cologne-Düsseldorf shipping company has discontinued its scheduled services on the Rhine.

The energy company RWE is still unable to supply the coal-fired power plant in Hamm with full coal freighters, RP Online said.

A company spokesman said that due to the low water level, the ships could only transport just over two thirds of cargo to the power plant. In the summer the plant had been taken off the grid for a few days because of problems with the coal supply.

According to German weather reports, the Cologne area is expected to remain dry but there is a chance of some rain showers on Thursday.

As The Local reported, Germany has been experiencing mild weather in a so-called 'Golden October', but after a dry and hot summer the drought conditions have exacerbated problems for many people, including farmers.


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WWII bomb found in Frankfurt safely detonated after mass evacuation

A massive World War II bomb found in Germany's financial capital Frankfurt was safely detonated in the early hours of Thursday, the city's fire service said, allowing tens of thousands of evacuated residents to return to their homes.

WWII bomb found in Frankfurt safely detonated after mass evacuation
Experts stand on mountains of sand, which were put in place to soften the force of the explosion of the WWII bomb in Frankfurt's Nordend. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The 500-kilogram unexploded bomb was unearthed during construction work on Wednesday in the densely populated Nordend area of the city, a location firefighters said made it a “particular challenge” to remove.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper reported the ordnance had been discovered right next to a children’s playground at a depth of about two metres (6.5 feet).

READ ALSO: What you need to know about WWII bomb disposals in Germany

Its report said the controlled blast, which happened just after midnight, “sounded like thunder rumbling” and left a hole three metres deep and ten metres wide.

Firefighters said that they had covered the bomb with 40 truckloads of sand before detonating it, in order to minimise damage to the surrounding buildings.

Around 25,000 people had been asked to evacuate the area, including the occupants of a nearby community hospital’s neonatal ward.

Among residents who took shelter at a skating rink was 29-year-old Tobias, carrying his pet cat in a cage.

He said he had heard the news over a police loudspeaker and been ordered to leave his home immediately, causing a “bit of stress”.

Barbara, 77, told AFP the news was “a bit of a shock, we don’t expect that”.

However, building works in Germany regularly unearth unexploded World War II ordnance, 76 years after the conflict’s end.

Seven bombs were defused in 2020 on land near Berlin where Tesla plans to build its first factory in Europe for electric cars.  

READ ALSO: WWII bomb in Frankfurt triggers 30m high water fountain

Other bombs were also discovered last year in Frankfurt, Cologne, and Dortmund.

In Frankfurt, the discovery of a 1.4-tonne bomb in 2017 led to the removal of 65,000 people, the biggest such evacuation in Europe since 1945.