FRANKFURT • Emergency service staff yesterday started to evacuate patients from two hospitals in Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital, ahead of the planned defusing of a massive World War II bomb.
Some 60,000 people have to leave their homes by today in Germany's biggest evacuation since the war while officials disarm the 1.4 tonne British bomb.
It was discovered on a building site in Frankfurt's leafy Westend, where many wealthy bankers live.
More than 100 hospital patients, including premature infants and those in intensive care, were evacuated yesterday, Frankfurt city councillor Markus Frank told Reuters television.
More than 2,000 tonnes of live bombs and munitions are found each year in Germany, even under buildings. In July, a kindergarten was evacuated after teachers discovered an unexploded World War II bomb on a shelf among some toys.
Frankfurt fire and police chiefs said they would use force and incarceration if necessary to clear the area of residents, warning that an uncontrolled explosion of the bomb would be big enough to flatten a city block.
"This bomb has more than 1.4 tonnes of explosives," Frankfurt fire chief Reinhard Ries said. "It's not just fragments that are the problem, but also the pressure that it creates that would dismantle all the buildings in a 100m radius."
This bomb has more than 1.4 tonnes of explosives... It's not just fragments that are the problem, but also the pressure that it creates that would dismantle all the buildings in a 100m radius.
FRANKFURT FIRE CHIEF REINHARD RIES
The HC 4000 bomb is assumed to have been dropped by Britain's Royal Air Force during the 1939-45 war. The country was pummelled by 1.5 million tonnes of bombs from British and American warplanes that killed 600,000 people. German officials estimate 15 per cent of the bombs failed to explode, some burrowing 6m deep.
Three police explosives experts in Goettingen were killed in 2010 while preparing to defuse a 450kg bomb.
The compulsory evacuation radius of 1.5km around the bomb includes the police headquarters, two hospitals, transport systems and Germany's central bank storing US$70 billion (S$95 billion) in gold reserves.
Frankfurt's residents have to clear the area by 8am local time today. Police will ring every doorbell and use helicopters with heat-sensing cameras to make sure nobody is left behind before they start defusing the bomb.
Roads and transport systems, including parts of the underground, will be closed during the work and for at least two hours after the bomb is defused, to allow patients to be transported back to hospitals.