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72,000 people being evacuated after WWII-bomb found in Greek city

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Military officers unload sacks of sand next to a hole in the ground, right, where a 250-kilogram World War Two bomb was found during excavation works at a gas station, before an operation to defuse it that will take place in Thessaloniki, Greece, February 10, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Greek authorities have forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people to safe places in the country’s second largest city of Thessaloniki after a bomb, dating from World War II, was discovered in the area.

The unwelcome guest, a 250-kilogram bomb, which was found some five meters below the ground during excavation works to expand a gas station’s underground tanks last week, made local authorities on Saturday to evacuate some 72,000 people living within a 1.9-kilometer radius of the bomb site to other places.

The planned evacuation, which began in the morning, affected three densely populated working-class districts around the western parts of the city center and is scheduled to be completed before 08:00 GMT on Sunday.

Regional security chief Apostolos Tzitzikostas said the unprecedented evacuation was “obligatory” for all the residents living within the evacuation zone, adding that they had been warned about the evacuation for the past several days via the media, leaflets and posts on social networks.

Some 20 ambulances were deployed to first evacuate over 300 disabled people and bedbound patients on Saturday, while about 1,000 police officers have been mobilized for the operation.

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. (Photo by AFP)

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.”

The country’s biggest peacetime evacuation has already largely crippled the bus and train networks in the city, Greece’s second major economic, industrial, commercial and political center.

The migration ministry said people living in a nearby refugee camp are also subject to the mass evacuation, without specifying the number affected.

It is not yet known which side of the war, the Allied or the Axis powers, dropped the bomb or when it fell, Phanios said.

The discovery of such a bomb is not a new story.

On January 23, some 60 people were evacuated in Hong Kong after a US-made bomb, dating back to the WWII, was discovered near a university, and on December 25 last year, the discovery of a 1.8-ton British aerial bomb, also dating from the war, forced the evacuation of some 54,000 people in the German city of Augsburg, in Bavaria province.

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