Dangerous Legacy: WWII Bomb Discovered in Munich City Center

Bomb disposal experts in Munich are struggling to defuse a World War II-era explosive discovered in the city's trendy Schwabing district. Some 2,500 people have had to leave their homes for safety reasons. The problem of unexploded ordnance remains a serious one in Germany, even 67 years after the war.

Photo Gallery: Safety Officials Attempt to Defuse WWII Bomb Photos
DPA

Hardly a week goes by in Germany without an unexploded bomb from World War II being found at a construction site or in another location. Very often it happens in the center of densely populated cities -- like Munich, where 2,500 people had to be evacuated following the discovery of a 250-kilogram (550 pound) bomb on Monday night.

Monday's find resulted in a mass evacuation of apartments and office buildings in Munich's popular Schwabing district, only a short walk from the city's world-famous tourist attractions. Officials said Tuesday morning that stores and offices near the site would also have to remain closed. "The fact is, it could explode at any time," Munich Fire Department spokesman Alexander Purkl told reporters. So far, safety workers have been unable to defuse the bomb's chemical delay-action detonator.

After finding the dud, which had been dropped by an American bomber during the war and sat undisturbed for decades, officials initially ordered the evacuation of 800 people. Later, however, safety officials decided to create an evacuation zone within 300 meters (980 feet) of the bomb, forcing an additional 1,700 residents to move to emergency accommodations. A nearby subway station had to be closed as well as parts of Leopoldstrasse, an important traffic artery in Munich.

Bombs Across Munich

Currently the city is considering a controlled detonation of the device, but that initiative has been delayed, out of concerns that nearby buildings could be destroyed and that it could project debris to other parts of the city. A demolition expert is now trying to cover the dud with straw and sand in order to mute the impact of the detonation. However, it remained unclear on Tuesday morning whether or not a detonation would be required.

City officials in Munich estimate that 2,500 unexploded bombs are still buried in the Bavarian capital. "They are spread out across all of Munich," Bernd Plank, a city official, told the local Abendzeitung newspaper.

Sixty-seven years have passed since the end of World War II, but a deadly legacy remains in Germany of unexploded ordnance that grow more dangerous with each passing year. Last year, a former bomb disposal chief told SPIEGEL ONLINE that "unexploded bombs are becoming more dangerous by the day through material fatigue as a result of ageing and through erosion of safety elements in the trigger mechanisms."

This year alone in Munich, there have been four major discoveries of unexploded bombs. Only a week ago, city officials in Nuremberg succeeded in defusing a similar 250-kilogram bomb.

In the most deadly incident in recent years, three people were killed in June 2010 in an explosion as they attempted to defuse an American bomb that had been dropped on the university city of Göttingen near Hanover.

dsl -- with wires

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