Thousands of Greeks evacuated their homes on Sunday morning to allow army experts defuse a World War II bomb found under a petrol station in Kordelio suburb of Thessaloniki, in Northern Greece. Refugees and migrants in the hot spot Softex, an abandoned factory, were also evacuated. In the biggest evacuation in peacetime, more than 72,000 people have been evacuated in a radius of 2km form the petrol station. Army crews launched the complex diffuse of the bomb started short after 11 am, with the neutralization of the bomb. The operation to lift and transport the bomb to a firing range was launched short after 12 o’clock noon.
One thousand policemen have been deployed in the area and some 300 volunteers helped evacuate the area from humans and vehicles.
In a radius of 750 m from the point where the bomb has been found, policemen were going door to door to assure all residents had left.
In one apartment, they found a granny who was not aware neither of the evacuation calls nor of the huge operation. She was transferred to a safe facility organized by the local municipality.
Some residents refused to evacuate and remained behind closed windows. State broadcaster ERT reported earlier that some 60%-70% of the residents left.
Video: residents evacuation
A total of 72,000 people were evacuated in the suburbs of Kordelio-Evosmos and Ambelokipoi-Menemeni in the biggest evacuation in peacetime. On Saturday, ambulances transferred some 400 people with disabilities, bed-ridden elderly and children to safe places like hotels rented by the municipality.
Regional government Apostolos Tsitsikostas called on residents to “stay calm” and “do not panic,” stressing that there was not danger and that “the measures were precautionary for the residents’ safety.”
The huge and complex operation to diffuse the 250-kilo bomb started a little later than planned as a Greek website had posted a camera crew on the fourth floor of the building of the petrol station thus transmitting the operation live.
Authorities warned the camera crew that they would send the prosecutor should they not evacuate the area “immediately.”
The bomb was discovered last week by the crew of a gas company that was conducting works to expand the gas network underground. The bomb is 5 m deep under the ground.
The bomb shell, type AN- M64, has a weight of 250 kilos and is believed to contain 153 kg of explosives.
Contrary to the general belief, it is not a German bomb thrown by the Luftwaffe during the Nazi occupation of Thessaloniki in World War II..
It is a bomb thrown by the Allies, Britons or Americans, trying to bomb facilities of the Nazis.
Greek historians are divided whether the bomb was dropped in December 1943 or September 1944.
Short after 11 am Sunday a disposal unit of the Greek Army launched the operation to have the bomb removed, transfer it to a firing range and conduct a controlled explosion.
On Friday, the army yesterday dug a dike around the point where spotted the bomb of World War II in Kordelio. The mound has reached a height of one and a half meter.
The bomb will be transferred to the firing range “Askoy-Prophiti”, the procedure to diffuse it is scheduled to take place between 1 o’ clock noon and 8 o’ clock in the evening.
According to the Greek Army, access to the area is profited for humans, animals and cars and people finding bomb shrapnel should immediately contact the authorities.
Greek media reported that the fragments of the exploded bomb shell of such volume can fly up to 1,900 m away.
The bomb transfer to the firing range will be thought the Egnatia highway in the escort of army, police and fire brigades as well as as ambulances.
The unit assigned with the bomb neutralization consists of three army officers from the Special Department for Land Mines Diffusing (TENX). They are members of EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal), the diffusion is going to take place under the strict NATO guidelines for Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Publication System (AEDOPS).
The I. Phase of the bomb neutralization was concluded at 11:30 am. Phase I included the controlled removal of the detonator and the confirmation that the neutralization is complete.
II. Phase, lifting and transporting, the bomb is currently underway.
The operation to diffuse the bomb is expected to last six to eight hours.
The Greek Army is shooting footage form the whole operation.
Residents are expected to return to their homes after 5 p.m. on Sunday.