WWII bomb forces mass evacuation

6th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

6 January 2005, POTSDAM - A deadly legacy of the Second World War - unexploded munitions - remains a threat throughout eastern Germany as shown by discovery of a blockbuster 250 kilo bomb next to a hospital in Potsdam's historic city centre. Much of Potsdam's downtown was evacuated before bomb disposal experts defuse the badly damaged and rusting US bomb which was probably dropped on the city during a British air raid in April 1945, shortly before Nazi Germany's defeat. "The condition of the bomb leaves a

6 January 2005

POTSDAM - A deadly legacy of the Second World War - unexploded munitions - remains a threat throughout eastern Germany as shown by discovery of a blockbuster 250 kilo bomb next to a hospital in Potsdam's historic city centre.

Much of Potsdam's downtown was evacuated before bomb disposal experts defuse the badly damaged and rusting US bomb which was probably dropped on the city during a British air raid in April 1945, shortly before Nazi Germany's defeat.

"The condition of the bomb leaves a lot to be desired," said Manuel Kunzendorf, the state munitions expert charged with defusing it.

Kunzendorf, as quoted in the Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten daily, said he has defused about 100 such monster bombs.

At least 5,000 people living near where the bomb was found have been told to leave their homes and most patients in the Ernst von Bergmann Hospital were moved to other clinics by German armed forces medics.

Some 800 businesses have been ordered to stay closed including those in the city's 18th century Dutch quarter, which is popular with tourists.

Two major bridges linking Potsdam to Berlin - including the legendary Glienicker Bridge used for Cold War spy trades - were shut. 

The state of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin, is by far the worst hit region of Germany for unexploded bombs.

Nearly 10,000 tons of high explosives have been recovered since 1991 and 400,000 hectares of the state are still believed to be contaminated with munitions, says Brandenburg's Interior Ministry.

This deadly cocktail comes from a variety of sources and was mostly left untouched by the communist East German government which was swept away before the 1990 German reunification.

Bombs found in major cities, like the latest one in Potsdam, are mostly the result of allied air raids. The worst hit city in the state is Oranienburg, just north of Berlin, which in past years has defused about 500 of almost 2,000 suspected unexploded bombs under its streets.

Many of these bombs were armed with long-term detonators which make them more likely to explode as they get older and start to corrode, warns a statement by Brandenburg's Interior Ministry. At least six cases of bombs exploding by themself have been reported since 1977.

A further source of unexploded munitions is from the final battles around Berlin in 1945 between the advancing Soviet Red Army and the crumbling Nazi Wehrmacht.

One of the last major battles was near Halbe, south of Berlin, just east of an Autobahn highway built by Adolf Hitler.

This Autobahn, the A13, has been undergoing an especially slow restoration over the past decade partly because bomb disposal experts have to search every square metre before any digging can begin.

The Soviet Union, which set up major military bases in East Germany after the war - and only pulled out in 1994 - also left behind quantities of unexploded munitions at its sprawling tank training grounds throughout the state.

Many otherwise pastoral looking forests and heaths, such as at Lieberose near the Polish border, are dotted with signs warning visitors they enter at their own risk due to unexploded Russian munitions.

Clean-up costs have been considerable and Brandenburg has paid out over EUR 200 million for bomb disposal since 1991.

"If we continue at the present speed it will take decades before the entire state has been checked and cleared," admits the Interior Ministry.

DPA

Subject: German news

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