Thessaloniki (Greece) set for largest ever “peace time” evacuation to defuse 500 pound WW II bomb

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WW2 plane 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 (225 kg) unexploded World War II bomb.

The 500-pound (225 kg) bomb was discovered about 5 meters below ground during excavation works at a gas station last week. Military experts will attempt to defuse the bomb where it is in an operation expected to last several hours.

Starting at 6 a.m (0400 GMT) on Sunday, buses will take residents living within a 2 km (1.2 miles) radius of the bomb site to local gyms, stadiums and cafes, police said, in the country’s biggest peace time evacuation.

The bomb was dropped during an air raid on the city in the 1940s.

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 Col. 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.

Some residents expressed concern about leaving their properties vacant.

Nazi Germany occupied Greece from 1941 until October 1944.

Source: Associated Press