Sergeant Rupert Frere RLC / AFP / Getty Images

WWII bomb prompts evacuation of thousands in London

‘Blitz spirit’ returns to the UK when police evacuate 1,200 homes after builders discover an unexploded WWII bomb

Hundreds of Londoners were allowed to go home on Tuesday after a huge unexploded World War II bomb that kindled a "Blitz spirit" among evacuees was removed for detonation after being found by construction workers.

About 1,200 homes in Southwark, on the south bank of the River Thames near Tower Bridge, were evacuated as army bomb disposal experts examined the 1,000-pound bomb dropped by the German Luftwaffe.

Eighty people spent Monday night in hotels after being put up by the local council, which was also laying on food and hot drinks for residents plus activities for children whose schools were closed.

The police said the bomb was "made safe" and driven through the city in an army truck to a quarry outside London, where it will be detonated.

"There's been a sense of the Blitz spirit," said Louise Neilan, a spokeswoman for the local council in Southwark. "We've been trying to reassure people."

Southwark was an industrial and commercial hub that was badly damaged during the Blitz, the German aerial campaign against Britain in 1940 and 1941 that killed some 20,000 civilians in London and was intended to cripple the country and force it to surrender.

‘Let’s just mingle’

Residents at the Red Cross-run centers for evacuees said that they were using the opportunity to get to know one another.

"When I first heard about it, I thought it was a joke, but when I saw the police, I realized it was serious," said Juliana Ayeni, 32, a care worker.

"Before, nobody talks to each other, but after what's happened, people just realize life's too short, let's just mingle."

Paul Carriere, 76, a retired sports teacher, said, "When you look at the world where we live, there's a lot worse than this. We're all chatting and laughing. That's what we're doing. That's what life is all about." 

The huge bomb, which was initially reported to be twice its size, was found by workers at a construction site on Monday. An initial 325-foot security cordon set up in the area was later expanded to 400 yards as an army bomb disposal team moved in.

The London Fire Brigade said seven unexploded bombs were discovered from 2009 to 2014, but rapid large-scale evacuations like the one seen in Southwark are rare.

Lucas Green, a local councilor in Southwark, said Monday that the bomb was 2 to 3 yards underground and still had its tailfin intact.

He advised residents to open their windows and keep their curtains drawn in case of a blast to limit the potential danger from broken glass.

But Melina Kakoulidis, a 41-year-old charity worker, said she was "more excited than anything else."

"I'm very interested in World War I and World War II. For me it's more a learning experience," she said.

Agence France-Presse

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