72000 people being evacuated after WWII-bomb found in Greek city

Alexandros Avramidi  Reuters

The 250kg bomb was discovered about 5m below ground during excavation works at a petrol station.

The bomb's firing mechanism "was still in a very good shape, and this was what had us anxious", army chief of staff Nikos Phanios said.

The operation is unprecedented in Greece, "where a bomb of this size has never been found in an area this densely populated", Tzitzikostas added.

The military say they will initially try to defuse the bomb's detonator before taking the device in its entirety to an army firing range, where a decision will then be taken on how best to neutralise it.

Experts are expected to take several hours to defuse it.

It preceded an operation to defuse a World War II bomb discovered there.

That worry was enough for the army to try to evacuate more than 70,000 people living in a 1.1-mile radius of the gas station.

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For one group of refugees and migrants the discovery of the bomb led to an excursion to a museum. Almost 1,000 police officials and 300 volunteers are helping out. The news agency added that this is Greece's biggest peacetime evacuation.

"The first phase of the operation has been completed successfully, the explosive mechanism has been deactivated and now we continue to the second phase which is the removal of the bomb from the area".

'There remains its removal from the site.

'They have warned us. we are afraid for the child, ' Bogdani said. Most were leaving in their cars, but some were being transported by bus to schools, sports halls and cultural centers elsewhere in the city, where they can get food and shelter.

The city's main bus station was shut down, trains in the area were halted and churches cancelled their Sunday services. The city also booked a 175-room hotel where people with limited mobility were taken on Saturday. The visits were organised at the request of the refugees, many of whom are Syrians fleeing the civil war in the country.

One resident says he recalls the day the bomb fell. "It was Sunday lunchtime", Giorgos Gerasimou, 86, told the Associated Press, saying that he remembers the day clearly because one of his friends was killed during the raid, which targeted local German-controlled rail facilities.

"The bombing was done by English and American planes on September 17 1944".

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