Frankfurt to evacuate 70,000 while World War II bomb defused

In one of the biggest evacuations in Germany since World War II, 70,000 residents of the city of Frankfurt are to move out of their homes while a bomb is defused. It was found at a construction site in the city center.

The bomb was found on the edge of a construction site on Wismarer Strasse. An area of 1.5 kilometers (0.6 square miles) in the Westend district of the city center will have to be cleared on Sunday while it is made safe, a police spokesman said on Wednesday. The operation to defuse it is planned for Sunday.

Environment | 15.01.2014

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.

It was unclear if flights into the airport, which is the country's biggest, would be interrupted on Sunday. This may depend on prevailing wind conditions at the time.

The 1,800-kilogram (4,000-pound) device is believed to be a British bomb dating back to the Allies' raids on the city. It was designed to damage buildings more than a kilometer from the center of the explosion. 

The 'blockbuster' bomb is one of many that have been uncovered in Germany in recent years.

Seventy years on, still finding bombs

In December last year, a British bomb identified as a blockbuster was found in Augsburg. More than 54,000 people had to leave their homes on Christmas Day while it was defused. That to date was the largest evacuation since the end of World War II more than 70 years ago.

US and British air forces dropped 2.7 million tons of bombs on Europe between 1940 and the end of the war in 1945, according to the Smithsonian US research group.

Frankfurt, like many of Germany's cities, was scarred by Allied bombing by war's end in 1945

Half of the devices were dropped on Germany. An estimated 10 percent of the bombs had failed to explode.

Each year, hundreds of unexploded munitions are uncovered in Germany and before any construction project begins, the ground has to be certified as cleared of unexploded ordnance. 

jm/kms/sgb (dpa, Reuters)

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