Deutsche Welle – 2018-04-17 23:16:15
Germany: World War II Bomb Removal Forces
Mass Evacuation in Western city
PADERBORN, Germany (April 8, 2018) — Bomb disposal specialists successfully deactivated a World War II in western Germany on Sunday.
The 1.8-ton British bomb was found in the small city of Paderborn, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) southwest of Berlin. More than 26,000 people within a 1.5 km radius of the bomb were forced to evacuate their homes Sunday so the bomb disposal could proceed.
Two hospitals and several homes for the elderly, a university and parts of the historic old town were part of the forced evacuation zone. Emergency shelters were set up, and more than 1,000 volunteers helped emergency services organize the evacuation.
The evacuation was originally to be completed by noon local time (1000 UTC) but was delayed until early afternoon as it took longer than expected for people to be moved from their homes.
According to the originally planned timing of the operation, people are due to return home by early evening. The bomb, which was found in a garden last month during construction work was found only 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) below the surface.
Unexploded bombs from World War II are still regularly discovered in Germany even more than 70 years after the conflict ended, with US and British air forces estimated to have dropped more than a million tons of bombs on the country between 1940 and 1945 in the fight against the Nazi regime.
In September last year, more than 70,000 people in the financial hub of Frankfurt were forced to leave their homes to allow a particularly large bomb to be disposed of.
Eleven German bomb disposal experts have been killed in the course of their work since 2000.
Koblenz Residents Move Out as
World War Two Bomb Made Safe
(February 9, 2017) — Some 21,000 residents of Koblenz were obliged to move out of their homes while a World War Two bomb was made safe. The biggest evacuation of its kind in postwar Germany will be held in Frankfurt for similar reasons.
The German city of Koblenz ordered an evacuation of 21,000 people on Saturday as specialists disposed of an unexploded bomb dropped by the US during World War Two. The city was obliged to move prison inmates, hospital patients and residents in care as a precaution while authorities tackled the 500 kilogram (1,100 pound) device.
The disposal began at 3 p.m local time (1300 UTC). Later on Saturday afternoon, the authorities gave the all-clear for residents to return to their homes, saying the bomb had been sucessfully removed and deactivated.
At the same time, the city of Frankfurt was preparing for an evacuation on Sunday – the largest in Germany in over 70 years. More than 70,000 people were to leave their homes in the country’s financial capital after officials discovered a British bomb in the west of the city that is three times as big as the one in Koblenz.
On Saturday afternoon, Frankfurt began moving patients from two hospitals within the 1.5 kilometer (about one mile) danger zone. The potential danger is so large, authorities have said they are prepared to use force to clear the area and have threatened locals who refuse to leave with incarceration. Residents are expected to be allowed to return home around 8 p.m. (1800 UTC)
Such large scale evacuations are still relatively common in Germany. According to the Smithsonian, the British and US air forces dropped around 2.7 million tons of bombs across Europe during World War Two, about half of them on Germany. Researchers estimate that about 10 percent of the explosive devices failed to detonate.
Bomb experts are called in before any major building project can begin in areas where there was Allied shelling, which is often how the material is found.
One of the most dangerous bombs found to date was in the city of Dortmund in 2013. Some 20,000 people were forced to leave their homes while authorities dismantled a 4,000 pound bomb that had the power to destroy an entire neighborhood.
German Town Lives with Lethal Legacy of World War II
Uwe Hessler / Deutsche Welle
(July 11, 2010) — Oranienburg has more unexploded bombs in its soil than any other German town or city. This week, another bomb was removed from its soil, a reminder to residents that they still live with lethal remnants from the war.
On a grey November morning, Manfred Gellert’s red fire brigade car rolled along a cobblestone street in Oranienburg. The streets were eerily empty, and there was no one to be seen in the well-kept gardens and houses in this eastern German town.
Parts of Oranienburg became a no-go area for some 4,500 inhabitants.
This was good news for the 57-year-old deputy head of Oranienburg’s fire brigade, since it meant local residents had obeyed orders that required them to evacuate this part of town as of 8 o’clock that morning.
Residents were generally “calm and composed in view of the evacuations,” he said. After all, it was the 159th bomb that has had to be removed in 20 years, and since this time about 4,500 people had to leave their homes “the numbers were not unusually high.”
Most went to work as usual, or went to stay with friends and family outside the no-go area. Temporary shelters were arranged for the people with nowhere else to go in a church and buildings owned by the municipality.
During World War II, Oranienburg was the target of massive bombing raids flown by the United States and Britain.
The Allies dropped more than 10,000 bombs, each weighing 500 lbs. or 1000 lbs. (250 or 500 kg), to destroy targets such as the Heinkel-Werke aircraft manufacture plant, a railway junction for trains to the eastern front and an arms depot belonging to Hitler’s elite SS soldiers.
The Auer-Werke, a chemical company situated close to the town center, endured especially massive bombardment, since it was thought to produce chemicals used in Nazi atomic bomb research.
According to Wolfgang Spyra, a bomb researcher at the Technical University of Cottbus, the bombs had a dud rate of between 7 percent and 15 percent. Taking that information and deducting what has already been removed in Oranienburg, his team estimates that there are still at least 325 bombs underneath the town.
In early 2010, Spyra went public with a study into Oranienburg’s unexploded bombs, which he based on original documents, including aerial photos and bombardment plans, and American and British war archives.
His study found that the bombs still underground remain extremely dangerous, largely because most of them have delay-action detonators which have become brittle after 65 years. “They could cause the bomb to go off any day,” he said.
There have been three spontaneous explosions in Oranienburg since 1991, resulting in several injuries.
Soil Stopped Explosions
When they were dropped 65 years ago, many bombs didn’t explode due to Oranienburg’s soft soil, which has a hard layer of gravel underneath. Bombs would often penetrate the earth, bounce off the gravel and come to rest underground with their tips pointing back upwards.
Positioned vertically, gravity stops the chemical detonators from working. The detonators contain a vial of acetone that bursts on impact and is meant to trickle down and dissolve a celluloid disk that restrains the cocked firing pin. But when the bomb is pointed upwards, the acetone seeps away from the celluloid.
Bomb No.159 had a chemical detonator “worn and twisted to an extent that makes any manual defusion impossible,” said Horst Reinhardt, one of Germany’s most experienced bomb disposal experts.
For the head of Brandenburg’s state-run Explosive Ordnance Removal Service, the bomb is 150th he has removed and, at eight meters (26 feet) down, the deepest one he has ever found.
It lay in a small wooded area, surrounded by dozens of houses, with some of them roughly 50 meters away.
Disposal experts erected walls of wood to deflect the force of the blast. Engineers had put sheet piling around the bomb and filled the space in-between with water. Bales of straw were stacked on top of it.
Around midday, the bomb was detonated, and from as far as a kilometer away a shower of earth, water and straw thrown up into the air was visible.
“When I heard the explosion, it was the first time I really felt scared,” said Guenther Dregler, whose house was the one closest to the bomb site. But he was able to breathe a sigh of relief after he returned. The only sign of distress to his property was a few books that had fallen off a shelf.
But while Dregler’s worries may be over for now, town authorities will be living with the headache of unexploded ordinance for a long time.
“Proactive bomb searching and removal in Oranienburg won’t be a matter of months and years,” said bomb researcher Spyra. “It will be a matter of decades.” It’s also an expensive proposition, costing up to 420 million euros ($597 million) to remove all of the 325 bombs authorities expect to find.
In view of the danger for the people of Oranienburg, authorities this week barred all heavy traffic from some of the most contaminated streets in the town. This summer three bus routes were changed to minimize the risk to passengers.
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