Greek city to be evacuated to diffuse buried WWII bomb

THESSALONIKI — Authorities in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki distributed fliers and put up posters Friday as part of preparations to evacuate about 75,000 people in order to defuse a 500-pound unexploded World War II bomb.

Bomb disposal experts are to tackle the device, found buried beneath a gas station, on Sunday in an operation expected to last about six hours. All residents in a nearly two-kilometre (1.2-mile) radius are to be evacuated, starting at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) Sunday. Authorities will also evacuate a nearby refugee camp with about 450 residents.

Experts check the location where an unexploded World War II bomb was found five metres (over 16 feet) deep, at a gas station in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, on Thursday.

The bomb, dropped during an air raid on the city in the 1940s, was found last week during work to expand fuel storage tanks.

A state of emergency has been declared in the three municipalities involved and about 1,000 police and 300 volunteers are expected to help out during the evacuation, Thessaloniki’s Deputy Governor Voula Patoulidou told The Associated Press.

“It is the first time something like this is happening in Greece,” Patoulidou said. “The transfer of all residents is mandatory and we will go door-to-door to make sure everyone leaves.”

Thessaloniki’s long-distance bus terminal, which is in the area, will shut down during the operation, and trains will also stop running to and from the city, as the main railway line passes through the exclusion zone.

Traffic along a major road nearby will be halted, while churches in the area will not hold services.

Army spokesman Colonel Nikos Fanios said the device’s exterior was too degraded to be able to determine whether it was a German or an Allied bomb. But one resident says he recalls the day it fell.

“The bombing was done by English and American planes on September 17, 1944. It was Sunday lunchtime,” said Giorgos Gerasimou, 86, whose home is 800 metres (half a mile) from where the bomb was found. “We could see the planes coming.”

They were targeting local German rail facilities, he said. Nazi Germany occupied Greece from 1941 until October 1944.

A 13-year-old at the time, Gerasimou said he and his friends would go to the railway station each day for food rations.

“That day something told me I had to leave, and in the end we did,” Gerasimou told the AP. “When I heard the [air raid] sirens, I jumped into a ditch with my friends and we survived.”

Another one of his friends wasn’t so lucky. Ten-year-old Panagiotis was killed in the air raid, Gerasimou said, clutching a photo of the boy that he keeps to this day.

During Sunday’s evacuation, residents will be transported by bus to schools, sports halls and cultural centers elsewhere in the city while the exclusion zone is cordoned off.

Army bomb disposal experts will initially attempt to defuse the bomb’s detonator, and then transport the device to an army firing range, where they will determine what further steps to take, said Fanios, the army spokesman.

“Every operation involving munitions is always difficult,” he said.

Some residents expressed concern about leaving their properties vacant.

“I’m really worried about the house, mainly in case thieves take advantage of the evacuation,” said Giorgos Aravias, 44. “I hope there are security measures in place.”

Source: (AP)

3 Responses to Greek city to be evacuated to diffuse buried WWII bomb

  1. Kathie Daniel February 11, 2017 at 7:13 am

    That headline though!!!! DEFUSE not diffuse. Look up the meanings, please and correct the error.

  2. fritz oneal February 11, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    You are so correct Kathie! In earlier times, newspapers had a position called sub-editor who checked for any such errors! The position no longer exists so glaring errors like this persist!

  3. trev greene February 12, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    I noticed the same egregious and nonsensical error and am so happy and proud that two other persons noticed the same thing ….way back in the 20th century when I attended primary school and later HC, we were drilled in English grammar and usage….sadly throughout the anglophile world this seems to have been lost.

    Somewhat off topic: why do so many people in the Caribbean whether in papers or on radio put the word “would” in the past tense, thus using a conditional clause for a simple declarative
    clause? Whenever I hear or see that usage , I expect an “if”. eg

    “He would have made a century last week…” instead of ” He made…”


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