A one-tonne bomb from World War 2 prompted an evacuation in the German city of Cologne, forcing some 20,000 people from their homes. It was the largest evacuation for the city since the war. Nevertheless, finding unexploded ordnance in Germany is a regular occurrence.
According to the BBC, everyone in a one-kilometer evacuation zone had to leave until the munitions disposal squad finished deactivating the bomb. Authorities found the ordnance near the Muelheim bridge on the Rhine River, and believe it’s an American design.
If the bomb went off in Cologne, the damage would have been severe, according to Wolfgang Wolf, the spokesman for the munitions disposal squad.
“We have here [explosive] TNT that generates shock waves over a wide distance that can rip off roofs, windows, doors and so on.”
Still, even the evacuation had the potential to cause harm. Deutsche Welle reports that 1,100 residents at a retirement and disability center had to leave, as well. About 600 of those people required medical care in the move, such as ambulance rides.
Center Spokesman Heribeth Büth explained, “the scale presented us with a special problem because we had to evacuate so many people for whom we had to provide care.”
The head of the care home, Otto Ludorff, explained that the evacuation put a “physical and emotional burden” on the residents, whose average age is 86-years-old.
Otherwise, the evacuation and bomb deactivation were fairly routine, which is a story in itself.
The New York Times reports that teams have removed half a dozen potentially dangerous munitions in just May alone. Many disposals, like the one in Cologne, require time-consuming evacuations.
Last week in Hannover, 30,000 people had to leave after a bomb was discovered under a schoolyard. Last Friday, Cologne had another evacuation involving 10,000 people. In Potsdam last year, the Brandenburg state parliament had to tolerate a brief evacuation while crews defused a British bomb.
Sebastian Dosdall, who runs a private company that clears munitions, explained the extent of the problem.
“It is an issue in most major German cities, where anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 unexploded bombs are believed to be lying under the ground. It is a problem that will not be solved easily. It will be with us for quite a while yet.”
Most of the time, disposals are safe, but not always. In 2010, three bomb disposal workers died trying to disarm a bomb. Luckily, most disposals and evacuations go off smoothly, like the one in Cologne.
[Image: Cologne During World War 2, Credit: Getty Images]