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Greece evacuates an estimated 75000 people to defuse WWII bomb

13 February 2017

Up to 72,000 people will be evacuated from their homes in Greece's second-biggest city of Thessaloniki on Sunday so experts can defuse and remove a World War Two bomb. 70,000 people were evacuated in what was described as the largest peacetime population evacuation in Greece.

Mandatory evacuations to from the vicinity of the unexploded bomb began at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, with police going door to door to remind people living within a 1.9-kilometer (1.2-mile) radius to leave the area.

Authorities believe about 75,000 people will be evacuated, most from the western suburb of Kordelio. A state of emergency was declared in the region.

"Phase two of the bomb removal operation was successfully completed".

The Greek army chief of staff, Nikos Phanios, told Agence France-Presse that the bomb's firing mechanism "was still in a very good shape, and this was what had us anxious".

"We heard on TV that, if the bomb explodes, it will be like a strong natural disaster", Michalis Papanos, 71, said as he and his wife left their home. Reuters reports the bomb was removed from its resting place and taken to a military shooting range, where it will be destroyed.

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The 250kg (500lb) bomb was discovered during excavation works. "Residents will still not be allowed in their homes, because the removal and transport contains dangers".

Others, like 26-year-old Alexander Bogdani and his wife, Anna Bokonozi, left on foot.

'They have warned us. we are afraid for the child, ' Bogdani said.

During the operation, train services and traffic along the route from the gas station to the army base will be halted. The city also booked a 175-room hotel where people with limited mobility were taken on Saturday. It is not clear how many refugees would be affected.

One resident recalled the day the bomb fell.

A British warplane dropped the American-made bomb during airstrikes on the city's nearby railway station and port in 1943, or 1944. "It was Sunday lunchtime", Giorgos Gerasimou, 86, told the Associated Press, saying that he remembers the day clearly because one of his friends was killed during the raid, which targeted local German-controlled rail facilities.

Greece evacuates an estimated 75000 people to defuse WWII bomb