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03 December 2011

City evacuates 45,000 to defuse massive WWII bomb

Sandbags frame a 1.8 ton WWII bomb in river Rhine near Koblenz Saturday Dec. 3, 2011. Officials in Germany's western city of Koblenz say some 45,000 residents have to be evacuated because of a World War II era bomb discovered in the Rhine river. The bomb was discovered in the Rhine after its water level fell significantly amid a prolonged lack of rain. (AP Photo/dapd/ Harald Tittel)

The discovery of a 1.8 ton World War II era bomb in the German city of Koblenz has caused officials to call for the evacuation of around 45,000 residents -- nearly half of the city's total population of 106,000 -- while emergency crews work to defuse the British aerial mine.

The mandatory evacuation, which includes two hospitals, seven elderly care homes and a local prison, is the largest in a German city since the end of the war, according to Der Spiegel.

The bomb was found in the Rhine River after an unusually dry fall caused water levels to decline, and officials expect to find more unexploded bombs in the coming days.

Finding World War II munitions is not uncommon in the area, according to German newspaper The National, which wrote today that an "estimated 2,000 tonnes of American and British aerial bombs and other munitions are still found every year."

The bomb is currently covered by about 16 inches of water and a bomb disposal team will be building a levee around the area in order to safely defuse it.

Manfred Morschhauser of the Koblenz Fire Department told German news outlet The Local that residents are taking the large-scale evacuation in stride.

"People are very relaxed about it, even though it’s nearly half the city’s population who will have to move," Morschhauser said. "Many have left their houses before in smaller evacuations for other bombs. We have found 29 bombs here in the last 12 years."

- Huff Post/AP