Cologne: Evacuation after WWII bomb found at gas station

Digging right behind a gas station unearthed an unexploded US bomb from World War Two, the third such significant find within a month in Cologne alone. Over 1,000 people were forced to leave the area in response.

Over 1,000 people are being evacuated from their homes in Cologne, Germany, after a World War Two bomb was found behind a gas station on Tuesday morning. 

The American 5-hundredweight (225-kilogram) unexploded bomb was found during excavation work in the southern suburb of Cologne-Poll.

"The bomb is right here, just behind our building," a petrol station worker told local website TAG 24 Köln.

Public order officials rushed to close off everything within a 300-meter (980-foot) radius of the device just after 12 p.m. local time (1100 UTC). The city administration announced at around 3:30 p.m. that experts had begun defusing the bomb.  

History | 18.04.2018

"An American 5-hundredweight bomb with an impact fuse was discovered directly behind a petrol station building during digging on the plot at Siegburger Strasse 504 on Tuesday morning, Dec. 18, 2018," the city said in a statement.

It has set up a temporary shelter for effected people in a high school.

Frequent finds in German cities

Unexploded World War Two bombs are still regularly unearthed by construction workers in Germany, especially in major western cities like Cologne, 70 years after the end of the conflict.

The R.A.F bombing raid on the Knapsack power station in Cologne was one of 262 Allied bombing raids on the city

Cologne was bombed in 262 separate air raids by the Allies during the war.

Read more: German drives WWII bomb to fire station

Cologne-Poll was the site of another evacuation involving thousands of people less than three weeks ago, after a 1,000 kg bomb was found in the area.

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On December 14, another US bomb was found in the Braunsfeld district of the city, leading to an evacuation affecting 8,000 people while it was defused.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

What is unexploded ordnance?

Unexploded ordnance (UXO or sometimes also abbreviated to UO), unexploded bombs (UXBs), or explosive remnants of war (ERW) are explosive weapons such as bombs, shells, grenades, land mines, naval mines and cluster munitions that did not explode when they were deployed. Unexploded ordnance still poses the risk of detonation, even decades after they were used or discarded.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

Why does Germany have a bomb problem?

Between 1940 and 1945, US and British forces dropped 2.7 million tons of bombs on Europe. Half of those bombs targeted Germany. Experts estimate that close to a quarter of a million bombs did not explode due to technical faults. Thousands of these bombs are still hidden underground, sometimes a few meters down and sometimes just below the surface.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

How big is the issue?

The industrial Ruhr area and the Lower Rhine region were heavily bombed, as were the cities of Dresden, Hamburg and Hanover. So this is where most of the unexploded ordnance is found. Bombs are usually unearthed during construction work or are discovered during the examination of historical aerial images. Experts say it could still take decades to clear all of the remaining unexploded ordnance.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

What happens when an unexploded bomb is found?

When confronted with the discovery of an UXO, UO or a UXB, bomb disposal experts have to decide whether to defuse it or to carry out a controlled explosion. Many have lost their lives on the job. German authorities are under pressure to remove unexploded ordnance from populated areas. Experts argue that the bombs are becoming more dangerous as time goes by due to material fatigue.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

How many bomb disposal experts have died?

Eleven bomb technicians have been killed in Germany since 2000, including three who died in a single explosion while trying to defuse a 1,000-pound bomb on the site of a popular flea market in Göttingen in 2010.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

Which was the biggest evacuation?

A 1.8-ton bomb dropped by Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) was found in the city center of Augsburg on December 20, 2016. The find prompted a large-scale bomb disposal operation and consequently the evacuation of over 54,000 people on December 25. To date, this remains the biggest evacuation for the removal of World War II unexploded ordnance in Germany.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

What’s the latest?

Authorities conducted another big bomb disposal operation in May 2017, with 50,000 residents in the northwestern city of Hanover forced to evacuate their homes. Thirteen unexploded ordnances from the 1940s were removed. Hanover was a frequent target of Allied bombing in the latter years of the war. On October 9, 1943, some 261,000 bombs were dropped on the city.

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