'Blitz spirit' in London as WWII bomb forces evacuation

24th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Residents were evacuated from around 1,200 homes in a densely populated London neighbourhood, as bomb disposal experts worked on Tuesday to defuse a 1,000-pound (455-kilogramme) bomb from World War II.

The local council said it had put 80 people up in hotels in the area overnight, and was serving hot food and drinks at a sports centre and a local library, as well as providing activities for children.

"There's been a sense of the Blitz spirit," Louise Neilan, a spokeswoman for the council in Southwark, located on the south bank of the River Thames, told AFP.

"It is quite worrying. We've been trying to reassure people," she said.

The huge bomb was found by workers on a building site on Monday and an initial 100-metre (328-foot) security cordon set up in the area was later widened to 400 metres as an army bomb disposal team moved in.

The plan is to defuse the bomb later on Tuesday.

"A careful operation is being planned to make the device safe," the police said in a statement.

Neilan said police officers had been going door to door in the area, handing out "hard-hitting leaflets" to encourage people to leave their homes since they did not have the power to force them out.

"Unfortunately some disruption is unavoidable when dealing with an incident such as this," said Zander Gibson, the police commander for Southwark borough.

"We are working with the London Ambulance Service and Southwark Council to identify any vulnerable residents who need assistance," he said.

Southwark was an industrial and commercial hub that was badly destroyed during The Blitz, a German aerial campaign on Britain between 1940 and 1941 that killed some 20,000 civilians in London alone and was intended to cripple the country into surrender.

The London Fire Brigade said seven unexploded bombs were discovered between 2009 and 2014, as well as five undetonated hand grenades, but rapid mass evacuations like the one on Tuesday are very rare.

Lucas Green, a local councillor in Southwark, said on Monday that the bomb was buried two to three metres underground and still had its tail fin intact.

The official advised residents to open their windows and keep their curtains closed in case of a blast to limit the potential danger from broken glass.

A defence ministry spokeswoman said the position of the bomb was "tricky" and required more excavation.

© 2015 AFP

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