Greece starts biggest peacetime evacuation over WW2 bomb disposal

  • Greece starts biggest peacetime evacuation over WW2 bomb disposal

Greece starts biggest peacetime evacuation over WW2 bomb disposal

Seven decades after the end of World War II, unexploded bombs from the conflict are still being found around the globe.

After an evacuation of more than 70,000 people - one of Greece's largest-ever peacetime evacuations - Greek officials have confirmed that the 500-pound weapon has been deactivated by specialists.

A World War II bomb found during excavation work at a gas station is carried on a military truck in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece.

Local authorities say the bomb - which was buried 16 feet deep, according to The Associated Press - was uncovered by a gas company crew that had been working on the station's underground tanks.

The departure of all residents within a 1.9km radius of the bomb site, affecting three neighbourhoods in the west of the city centre, is due to be completed before 08:00 GMT on Sunday. A Softex refugee camp on the outskirts of Thessaloniki will also be cleared.

The discovery of such a bomb is not a new story.

The operation was unprecedented in Greece, "where a bomb of this size has never been found in an area this densely populated", Tzitzikostas said.

Some 20 ambulances were deployed to first evacuate over 300 disabled people and bedbound patients on Saturday, while about 1,000 police officers have been mobilized for the operation.

Many chose to do so "because they are scared of thieves", he said. Reuters reports the bomb was removed from its resting place and taken to a military shooting range, where it will be destroyed. Trains and buses were suspended, and church services cancelled.

Among the evacuees were 450 refugees staying at a former factory who were bused to visit the city's archaeological museum.

It is not yet known which side in the war dropped the bomb or when it fell, Phanios said.

One resident of the city told the Associated Press that the bomb was dropped by British and United States planes targeting German rail facilities on 17 September 1944.

According to Greek media reports, the bomb was dropped by a British plane during air strikes on the city's nearby railway station and port in 1943.

The Allies were targeting local German rail facilities, he said.