BERLIN (AP) — Berlin police were evacuating thousands of people from a central area of the German capital Friday and shutting down the main train station in preparation for the removal of an unexploded World War II bomb found during recent construction work.
Some 10,000 residents and workers were being forced to leave a two-square-kilometer (almost a square mile) area, including the train station, while bomb experts defuse the 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) British bomb dropped during the war.
Trains were prevented from stopping at the busy station from 10 a.m., and through traffic was being shut down at 11:30 a.m. before experts begin their work, German rail operator Deutsche Bahn said.
Rail traffic is tentatively planned to resume at about 1 p.m. but it’s not clear yet how long the bomb disposal operation will take. Some 300,000 travelers use the station daily, according to Deutsche Bahn.
The evacuation area, a circle around the construction site north of the train station where the bomb was discovered during digging, also includes a hospital, the main office of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, and parts of both the economy and transportation ministries.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office and Germany’s parliament building are close by, but outside the zone.
Even 73 years after the end of the war, such discoveries remain common in major German cities.
Downtown Berlin was largely reduced to rubble in hundreds of Allied bombing raids during the war and street-to-street fighting between the Nazi and Soviet armies in the final days of the conflict.
Experts estimate that more than 5 percent of the bombs dropped on Berlin failed to explode due to a variety of reasons, including faulty fuses, poor assembly and bad angle of impact. The city estimates at least 3,000 bombs, grenades and other munitions are still buried.
In one of the more sensational finds, a 250-kilogram (550-pound) British bomb was found in 2002 beneath the lower ring of seats during renovation work at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, where tens of thousands of fans regularly watch the city’s Hertha BSC soccer club play its home games.