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WWII bomb discovery forces evacuation in Greek city of Thessaloniki

13 February 2017

Almost 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.

Authorities in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki say an unexploded World War II bomb found under a gas station was defused Sunday and safely taken to an army firing range outside the city, paving the way for over 70,000 people to return home.

The bomb, containing almost 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of explosives, was unearthed in the northern port city during road works last week.

Defusing it is expected to take about six hours.

The authorities have ordered the full evacuation of all residents living within an nearly two-kilometer radius of the site where the bomb was found.

The bomb was discovered during road works last week and is due to be disposed of on Sunday.

As a rule, it's considered less than desirable to have a long-unexploded bomb buried deep in the ground near your property.

A thousand police officers have been mobilised for the operation, with residents given several days' warning via the media, leaflets and posts on social networks.

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

The three municipalities involved have declared a state of emergency. They're among the roughly 450 people living in a refugee camp based at a former toilet paper factory near the city - a government-run camp where women and children have been sexually assaulted, according to The Guardian.

The city's main bus station was shut down, trains in the area were halted and churches canceled Sunday services. Many people left in their cars, but some were sent in buses to schools and sports halls.

The bomb was to be taken to an army firing range.

But one resident said he remembered the day it fell. It dropped during an air raid against rail facilities during Nazi Germany's occupation of Greece.

"The bombing was done by English and American planes on September 17, 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.

WWII bomb discovery forces evacuation in Greek city of Thessaloniki