Army experts have completed the first stage of a massive operation to defuse and remove a WWII bomb in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, the regional governor announced Sunday.
Greek army experts had managed to defuse the detonator by 13:00 local time (1100 GMT), Apostolos Tzitzikostas told national broadcaster ERT, adding that within the next few hours the bomb will be transferred to a nearby army base Askos-Profitis for controlled explosion.
“There is still risk. Citizens should stay off the sealed zone until the entire operation is concluded,” he stressed.
Nearly 72,000 residents of the Evosmos-Kordelio district were evacuated to allow the experienced squad to defuse the 250 kg bomb which had been discovered during excavation works at a gas station a few days earlier.
The bomb was believed to be dropped by either British or U.S. forces in 1943-1944 targeting Nazi German facilities in Greece’s second-largest city.
As a precautionary measure, while the bomb disposal squad will be working in the area for some six to eight hours according to initial estimates, authorities decided to proceed to the biggest such evacuation operation in post-war Greece.
City authorities have been instructing all residents living within 2 km around the gas station to leave their homes by 10 a.m. local time (0800 GMT), via leaflets and media during the past few days.
Buses were available to transfer the affected to schools, stadiums and cafes early Sunday, while bed-bound patients were transferred on Saturday. Refugees and migrants living in nearby accommodation camps were also temporarily evacuated.
Around 1,000 policemen have been deployed to the area, police said. They knocked on doors to make sure the houses were empty before experts started to defuse the detonator.
According to the army, the squad has disposed of dozens of similar bombs. However, it was the first time in decades that a bomb of such a size was found in a densely populated urban district in Greece.
During the operation, train services and traffic along the route from the gas station to the army base will be halted. Enditem