Europe

Greek WW2 bomb deactivated after mass Thessaloniki evacuation

Greek Army officers conduct preparation work before they excavate an unexploded World War II bomb which was found at a gas station in Thessaloniki Image copyright AFP
Image caption People were told to remain outside the evacuation zone until bomb was removed

A World War Two bomb has been deactivated in the Greek city of Thessaloniki after it forced the evacuation of some 70,000 people, officials say.

The 250kg (500lb) bomb was discovered during excavation works. It will now be removed and taken to a firing range.

It is thought to be one of the largest wartime bombs to be found in urban Greece.

Police went house-to-house to evacuate residents so the work could be done.

It was one of the largest peacetime evacuations in Greece. Many people left in their cars, but some were sent in buses to schools and sports halls.

The deactivation was delayed as police had to remove a camera placed above the crater by a Greek media outlet, AFP news agency reported.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The bomb was discovered during excavation works at a petrol station
Image copyright AP
Image caption Residents within a radius of about 2km (1.2 miles) of the bomb were asked to leave their homes

Residents were warned to remain outside the evacuation zone until the removal of the bomb, expected to take place later on Sunday.

"The danger remains. Citizens must stay outside the evacuation zone until the bomb removal process is completed," regional governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas said.

A state of emergency had been declared in the three municipalities affected by the operation. Trains and buses were suspended, and church services cancelled.

Among those evacuated were 450 refugees living in a former factory who were taken to the city's archaeological museum.

The bomb was discovered last week near a petrol station during work to expand fuel storage tanks. The army says it will be taken to a firing range, where a decision will then be taken on how best to neutralise it.

Officials said the device was too degraded to tell if it was a German or an Allied bomb.

But one resident of the city told the Associated Press that the bomb was dropped by British and US planes targeting German rail facilities on 17 September 1944.

German forces occupied Greece from 1941 until October 1944.

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