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German commute interrupted by WWII explosive

April 4, 2013

Berliners trying to get to work Thursday morning found themselves contending with an unusual delay, an unexploded bomb that had been dropped on the city nearly 70 years ago during World War II. 

Hundreds evacuated
The 220 pound aerial bomb of Russian origin was found approximately 20 feet from rail tracks in Heidestrasse, a lightly populated area located in the former "no man's land" between East and West Berlin close to the city's main train station. 

Nearly 900 people from hotels, apartments and schools had to be evacuated upon the bomb's discovery. Planes were also put into a holding pattern above the city, unable to land until the bomb was defused by experts, according to National Geographic.

The entire ordeal took under a half hour.

A hidden destructive potential
According to CNN the bomb was discovered April 2 by a bomb disposal unit that was checking out a construction site near the Hauptbahnhof, the central station in Berlin. Roads to the area were closed overnight, and evacuations and school closures went into effect so that disposals teams could move in. 

The operation was complicated by the fact that there was a depot for freight trains and houses on in the immediate blast radius of bomb, noted CNN.

Had the device gone off it could have blown a 10 foot wide and deep crater into the heart of Germany's capitol city. 

A surprisingly common occurrence
Though transportation delays were inconvenient for German commuters on Wednesday morning, the situation was not unprecedented.

"They do risk a lot, but they have a lot of experience," Berlin police spokesman Jens Berger told CNN. "Here in Berlin it is a fact of daily life to defuse bombs, but without question they are risking a lot."

The discovery of undetonated explosives is such a frequent occurrence in Germany that private bomb disposal teams are contracted by German railway operator Deutsche Bahn and other companies to check that sites are clear whenever construction plans are being considered.

The latest bomb found isn't the first or the largest. In November 2011, the city of Koblenz evacuated 45,000 people, half its population, when a 4,000-pound  British bomb was found in the Rhine River. The evacuation included two hospitals, seven retirement homes, and a prison.

Shaken German commuters can tell their harrowing tail to friends around the world for less by picking up an international calling card.


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