Germany: Frankfurt area evacuated for disposal of WWII bomb

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An area of Frankfurt that houses top bankers, two hospitals and more than 1,700 tonnes of German gold will be evacuated on Sunday because of attempts to defuse a 1.8 tonne second world war bomb that authorities say could cause “immense material loss”.

More than 60,000 people in Germany’s financial capital will have to decamp and the area 1.5km around the site will be sealed off while bomb disposal experts work on the device. It was found a few hundred metres from the Bundesbank, the German central bank, whose security staff will remain on site to ensure its gold reserves are protected.

The bomb was found in the smart Westend district, close to a university campus and just north of Frankfurt’s financial centre, including the headquarters of Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank. The European Central Bank’s headquarters is not affected but it will open its doors to give a refuge to any staff caught up in the evacuation.

They include ECB president Mario Draghi, though he is expected to be out of town celebrating his 70th birthday. The bomb was found on Tuesday during construction work. It is one of a number of so-called “blockbuster” bombs deployed by the UK’s Royal Air Force during the second world war. Hospitals are having to shift their patients to other medical centres in the city.

Residents have been asked to leave their homes from 8am until late into the evening and perhaps longer, and all public transport in the area will be curtailed. Police have been authorised to evacuate the area by force if necessary.

A heat-seeking helicopter will fly over the area to ensure that no unauthorised person is there once the bomb disposal is under way at noon, though pets are being allowed to remain. Alisa Walker, a student recruitment officer at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management who lives in the area, said: “At first I thought it was a joke on the internet.

It’s going to ruin my weekend.” Unexploded bombs are regularly found in Germany, but this will be among the biggest evacuations of its type. In a fire service question-and-answer document to clarify the procedures, residents are advised to pack important documents and medicine. To the last question — “What if the disarming goes wrong?” — authorities say they are “strongly convinced” that their plans will work.

“In the unlikely event something goes wrong, all public authorities are prepared. There will be immense material loss, but, due to the evacuation, no person will be harmed,” authorities say.