An unexploded Second World War bomb is leading to the evacuation of nearly half of the population of the German town of Koblenz.
The 1,800 kilogram bomb was discovered lying in the River Rhine after falling water levels revealed its resting place.
Some 45,000 of the 106,000-strong population will be cleared from an evacuation zone 1.8 kilometres in radius in the biggest post-war evacuation in Koblenz’s history.
Local authorities will provide temporary accommodation in schools outside the danger zone for residents unable to stay with friends or family, and free shuttle buses are being laid on to transport the thousands of people forced to leave.
On Monday two Koblenz hospitals began preparing to move 200 patients and started to cancel operations. Koblenz railway station will shut down, hotels have been told to close, and the inmates of a local jail will also have to pack their bags “The extensive measures are necessary,” said Norbert Gras, a spokesman for the local fire brigade. “It’s true we are dealing with a very large bomb.”
Although discoveries of unexploded ordinance from the massive Allied aerial assault on the Nazi Reich are frequent in Germany, the Rhine bomb poses a particular challenge for explosive experts.
The bomb lies in 40 centimetres of water with parts of it buried in mud, making it difficult to access the detonation fuse. The presence of a smaller American bomb close by has also complicated matters, and set back the operation to defuse the RAF bomb till the weekend…
The low water levels in the Rhine brought on by an autumnal drought have led to a spate of discoveries of unexploded munitions left over from the war. On Sunday 1,000 people in the Rhine town of Neuwied had to leave their homes as experts defused a 500 kilogram American bomb on the banks of the river.
The gift that keeps on giving. Though this bomb was dropped on a part of the world containing the remnants of the Fascist onslaught that threatened the whole world. Our part of comparable dangers presented to civilians from the dispersion of landmines and cluster munitions – during “peacetime” – is a lot less tolerable.