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Published: Mon, February 13, 2017
World | By Ernestine Jimenez

Unexploded WW2 bomb sparks evacuation of thousands in Greece's Thessaloniki

Unexploded WW2 bomb sparks evacuation of thousands in Greece's Thessaloniki

The 550-pound bomb was discovered during road works, prompting authorities to rush 300 people from nearby homes to safety.

The Greek army chief of staff, Nikos Phanios, told Agence France-Presse that the bomb's firing mechanism "was still in a very good shape, and this was what had us anxious".

In 1943, when the bomb was reportedly dropped, the Germans and their Axis allies Italy and Bulgaria had seized all of Greece.

The bomb, which was defused in 30 minutes, has been taken to an army firing range.

According to regional authorities, the entire defusing operation would take up some eight hours, but local military spokesman Colonel Nikos Phanios said defusing the bomb and moving it to a military shooting range "could take us up to two days".

A man walks next to a gas station where an unexploded bomb dating back to World War II was found during work to expand a gas station's underground tanks in Thessaloniki, Greece, February 8, 2017.

Residents within a radius of about 2km (1.2 miles) of the bomb will be compelled to evacuate the area between now and Sunday morning, security officials have said.

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.

The discovery of such a bomb is not a new story. Residents who lived within a 2 km distance of the site of the bomb - discovered 5 meters below the ground during an excavation at a petrol station last week - were asked to head to local cafes, stadiums and gyms in what is believed to be one of Greece's biggest peacetime evacuations, Reuters reported.

"Phase two of the bomb removal operation was successfully completed. Residents will still not be allowed in their homes, because the removal and transport contains dangers". Many people left in their cars, but some were sent in buses to schools and sports halls.

Alexander Bogdani and his wife, Anna Bokonozi, left on foot, with their toddler daughter in a pushchair.

"They have warned us. we are afraid for the child", Bogdani said. It is not clear how many refugees would be affected.

"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. Nazi Germany occupied Greece from 1941 until October 1944.

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