WWII bomb defused in Hong Kong after 1,200 evacuated

Sandbags placed around a US-made bomb (centre) dropped during World War II that was found inside a construction site at the junction of Convention Avenue and Hung Hing Road in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong. PHOTO: AFP
A blocked road in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong on May 11, 2018, a day after a US-made bomb dropped during World War II was discovered at a harbourfront construction site. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - Police defused a World War II bomb on Friday (May 11) at a construction site in the heart of Hong Kong after more than 1,000 people were evacuated from the area, in the third such discovery in the city this year.

Police cordoned off roads and evacuated 1,200 people from shops, restaurants and offices in the bustling Wanchai business district as experts sought to unearth and disarm the 450kg US-made bomb.

The ordnance, which had lain dormant for more than 70 years before its discovery on Thursday (May 10), was of the same model as two other bombs discovered in January at the site, where work is underway to build a new metro railway station.

Police started defusing the bomb on Thursday night in an operation that lasted 20 hours.

"The previous two bombs were horizontally positioned and this one is vertical instead. Two thirds of the bomb was actually buried underground, we needed to unearth at least part of the object before we started our operation," said bomb disposal officer Lai Ngo Yau.

"Because the bomb was not stable, we needed to do it very carefully", he added. The disposal team gathered around the bomb to pose for photos after the operation.

Hong Kong saw fierce fighting between Japanese and Allied forces during World War II, and hikers and construction workers still occasionally discover unexploded bombs in the territory.

Local historian Jason Wordie said Hong Kong was heavily bombed by the United States in 1941 at the outset of the war's Pacific campaign.

"What they were aiming for were the commercial docks across the harbour," he said.

Land reclamations to expand Hong Kong's waterfront in the decades after the war turned up a number of bombs that fell in the harbour, Mr Wordie added.

In 2016, a hiker discovered six unexploded World War II-era grenades and two mortar shells on a trail near the Happy Valley neighbourhood.

Police defused a wartime bomb weighing nearly one tonne in 2014, the largest yet found in the city.

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