A World War II bomb killed three disposal experts and injured six in the central German city of Göttingen on Tuesday night when it exploded just as they were preparing to defuse it. Wartime bombs are found almost weekly in Germany, but deaths are rare.
Three members of a bomb disposal team were killed in the central German city of Göttingen on Tuesday night while they were preparing to defuse a World War II bomb found on a construction site, police said.
Two people were seriously injured and four received slight injuries in the explosion which happened just as the surrounding area was being evacuated. All the casualties belonged to the 13-man bomb disposal team. Reports said the bomb went off before the specialists had begun trying to defuse it.
Barely a week goes by in Germany without unexploded bombs from World War II being discovered on building sites, but deaths are rare. The 500 kilogram bomb was of a particularly dangerous type because it had a delay-action chemical fuse, which can make it highly unstable.
But as bomb disposal operations are so routine in Germany, no one had been expecting any problems with this one, found lying in the ground at a depth of seven meters.
"Everything had been going great and the specialists from the munitions removal team had seemed satisfied ," Detlef Johannson, a spokesman for the city administration, told German media. He said he had heard an explosion at 9:30 p.m.. "After two minutes it was clear that something terrible had happened."
The city had been evacuating some 7,200 people living within one kilometer of the bomb, which was discovered on a construction site for a new sports arena. A similar bomb was detected and safely defused at the same site last Thursday, and media reports said a third unexploded bomb had been found.
Germany was first to attack civilian targets with aerial bombardments during World War II. In response, the Allies waged a five-year strategic air offensive during which they dropped 1.9 million tons of bombs to destroy Germany's industry and crush public morale. The raids on Germany killed an estimated 500,000 people.
Most estimates for the percentage of unexploded bombs range from 5 to 15 percent -- or between 95,000 and 285,000 tons. As Germany hastily rebuilt its cities after the war, authorities didn't have the time or the means to locate and dispose of a large part of that tonnage.
As a result, more than 2,000 tons of American and British aerial bombs and all kinds of munitions ranging from German hand grenades and anti-tank mines to Russian artillery shells are recovered each year in Germany.
Most of the bombs are found in an around big cities and industrial towns that bore the brunt of the bombardment -- including Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Dresden, Frankfurt and many others.
Another article with more background information
It's depressing that people are still killed by weapons from that war after such long time, and that in this particular case they did not really expect anything bad at all makes it particularly tragic. Also, this makes me a bit uneasy because my university is doing construction work right in the middle of campus, and they keep finding bombs as well. The newsfeed from the university library has given me at least two "The library is currently closed while a five-ton-bomb is being defused" messages already. Usually, no one gets really nervous, but this incident is a reminder that those things are in fact dangerous even after 65 years - and also, of course, that wars have repercussions long after they're "officially" over.