More than 65,000 people in an upscale neighborhood of Frankfurt, Germany, were ordered to evacuate after construction workers unearthed a massive World War II-era bomb buried, but undetonated.
The exercise is Germany’s largest evacuation since the end of the war.
Officials said the 1.2-ton bomb, which is of British origin, was discovered buried near the city’s Goethe University. The explosive is known as an HC 4000, which the British referred to as the “blockbuster bomb” during the war for its devastating power to level whole city blocks when deployed.
Munitions experts said if the bomb were to explode it would obliterate every structure within 300 feet and cause severe damage well beyond that radius.
German police were going door to door Saturday, emptying homes, businesses and a hospital under threat of arrest if individuals refused to leave. Officials said they would deploy a helicopter with thermal imaging equipment to determine if anyone in the evacuation zone attempted to stay behind.
Officials said they would open the city’s convention center and a fairground as overnight shelters for those with nowhere else to go. Museums and other cultural institutions said they would offer free admission and keep longer hours to give displaced residents something to do over the weekend after being forced out of their homes.
Explosives experts plan to dismantle and remove the bomb on Sunday, after which residents would be allowed to return home.
A similar evacuation was also ordered Saturday in Koblenz, a city 70 miles west of Frankfurt for the same reason, to dismantle a large World War II-era bomb that was unearthed during the construction of a new kindergarten. That evacuation displaced an estimated 22,000 people.
By Eric DuVall