75,000 Evacuated in Thessaloniki

Potential British UXB Found Beneath Petrol Station

ONE OF the largest wartime bombs to be found in urban Greece has caused chaos in the country’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, and led to one of the largest evacuations in Greek post-war history.

The device, thought to be a 500lb bomb, was discovered by contractors in the Kordelio suburb of the city. Typically, although dramatic, evacuations for a device of this size tend to be localised, however in this instance the potential for destruction necessitated a much greater response, as the workmen who discovered the bomb were installing new fuel storage tanks for the petrol station now occupying the site.

The find resulted in an evacuation zone 2.5 miles in diameter, forcing 75,000 to leave their homes. At least 1,000 police officers enforced the mandatory evacuation, and a state of emergency was declared in the affected municipalities.

Thessaloniki’s bus terminal was closed, and services serving the nearby central station halted. According to officials, the device is too badly degraded to identify, leaving some confusion as to its origins. However, one resident, Giorgos Gerasimou, 86, said the bomb was dropped by British and American bombers targeting rail facilities on Sunday 17 September 1944. A spokesman for the Greek Army also stated that although the bomb was “badly corroded”, its detonation mechanism was in good condition.

The device was safely defused on Sunday 12 February. Greek authorities worked swiftly to secure the vast area before the military worked, some 16 feet underground, to defuse the detonator on location.

Once the area had been cleared, the military made safe the detonator in 30 minutes, and moved the device to a firing range for disposal.