'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 Tuesday to defuse a 1,000-pound (455-kilogramme) bomb from World War II.

The local council said it had lodged 80 people in area hotels 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," said Louise Neilan, a council spokeswoman in Southwark, located on the south bank of the River Thames.

"We've been trying to reassure people," she told AFP.

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

Several police vans and ambulances could be seen in the area and three schools were shut.

Local residents at the centres being run by the Red Cross for evacuees said that they were using the opportunity to get to know each other.

"When I first heard about it I thought it was a joke but when I saw the police I realised it was serious," said Juliana Ayeni, 32, a care worker.

"Before nobody talks to each other but after what's happened, people just realise life's too short, let's just mingle," she said.

Paul Carriere, 76, a retired sports teacher, said: "When you look at the world where we live, there's a lot worse than this".

"We're all chatting and laughing. That's what we're doing. That's what life is all about," he said.

The huge bomb was found by workers on a building site on Monday and an initial 100-metre (325-foot) security cordon set up in the area was later widened to 400 metres as an army bomb disposal team moved in.

The experts were to defuse the bomb later on Tuesday.

The London Fire Brigade said seven unexploded bombs were discovered between 2009 and 2014, but rapid large-scale evacuations like the one seen in Southwark on Monday and Tuesday are rare.

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

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

But Melina Kakoulidis, a 41-year-old charity worker, said she was "more excited than anything else."

"I'm very interested in World War I and World War II. For me it's more a learning experience," she said.

© 2015 AFP

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