Fifty thousand people have been evacuated from their homes in the northwestern German city of Hanover while experts defused three British bombs dropped during World War II.
It was the second largest evacuation of its kind carried out in Germany, according to the BBC.
City officials initially said five suspected bombs were discovered; two at a construction site and three more nearby. But the BBC cites local German media as saying two suspected bombs turned out to be harmless scrap metal. Two unexploded bombs were successfully defused by Sunday afternoon and a third required a specialized cutting machine to be made safe.
NPR’s Soraya Sarhadi Nelson reports, “The bombs were discovered weeks ago, but officials say planning the evacuation of 10 percent of the city’s residents and disposal of multiple bombs takes time.”
The affected area covers more than a half mile radius and city officials said people should be able to return to their homes by Sunday evening.
The city worked to accommodate residents, first by handing out leaflets in German, Polish, Turkish, English and Russian with word of the evacuation, reports the Associated Press. Lest residents find themselves with nowhere to go, city museums opened their doors for free admission and a senior citizens’ agency organized a Scrabble gathering.
Nearly 75 years after World War II ended, the discovery of unexploded bombs in Germany is not at all rare; indeed they have been found in cities across the continent. Millions of tons of bombs were dropped over the course of the war, many of which never went off.
And so, cities were rebuilt and life went on over thousands of ordnances that are still able to wreak havoc.
About a dozen bomb technicians have been killed in Germany since 2000, reports Smithsonian Magazine. And the danger may be getting worse.
Soraya says, “Undetonated World War II bombs, of which there are thousands still buried around Germany, are becoming more dangerous with time because of components breaking down.”