It’s an unprecedented massive operation for post-war Greece when it had to defuse a 250 kg unexploded WWII bomb discovered at a densely-populated district of the northern port city of Thessaloniki on Sunday.

Military officers of the Hellenic Army's Explosives Ordnance Disposal stand over a hole in the ground where a World War II bomb was found during excavation works at a gas station on Sunday. (Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters)
Military officers of the Hellenic Army’s Explosives Ordnance Disposal stand over a hole in the ground where a World War II bomb was found during excavation works at a gas station on Sunday. (Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters)
After a highly collaborated operation lasted for hours, local authorities finally announced the successful end of the operation on Sunday.

“Everything ended well. The operation to detonate and transfer the bomb concluded in absolute success,” Regional Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas said in a statement to Greek national news agency AMNA and other media in early afternoon.

Some 72,000 residents who had been evacuated from Evosmos-Kordelio district as a precautionary measure were given the green light to return home about five hours after a Greek military bomb disposal squad started the disposal of the 250 kg bomb unearthed a few days ago at a gas station.

The bomb is believed was dropped by British forces in December 1943 targeting Nazi German facilities. During the bombardment of Thessaloniki at the time, about 500 people were killed.

According to the local officials, the financial cost of the operation will be within 10,000 euros (10,640 U.S. dollars).

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“Everything run smoothly,” Greek military spokesman colonel Nikolaos Fanios added.

The bomb was U.S. made and its detonator was found in good condition, which enabled the experienced experts to quickly deactivate it, the officer explained.

The 1-meter long bomb was then transferred on an army vehicle to the Askos-Profitis army base some 30 km outside the city, where a controlled explosion took place.

From 10:00 a.m. until about 16:00 p.m. local time a 2 km range area around the gas station was sealed off with more than 1,000 police officers deployed to keep people off.

The route to the army base was also closed to traffic.

The daily life of a major part of the Greece’s second largest city with a population of 1 million was disrupted for several hours during the unprecedented operation for Greece.

According to the Army spokesman, although the squad’s experts had disposed dozens bombs in the past in northern Greece during excavation work for infrastructure projects, it was the first time in post- war Greece a bomb of such a size was discovered in a densely populated urban district.

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Sunday’s evacuation, the largest in the country for decades, changed the image of a large part of Thessaloniki for a few hours.

The usually bustling cafes were empty. Churches canceled Sunday masses and other services, including scheduled weddings.

Dozens of bed-bound patients were transferred by ambulances on Saturday to a hotel, according to local authorities.

Most residents had left their homes by their own cars by early Sunday, while the last ones were bused to public schools and stadiums until 10:00 a.m.

The operation caused no panic among local residents.

“There was some concern, in particular when the bomb was found, but once the experts took over, most people were calm and sure that everything would end well,” college student Dimitris Arfanopoulos told Xinhua.

But there were still some people defied the mandatory evacuation, which the authorities had informed the local by leaflets and media announcements over the past week.

Greek national broadcaster ERT reported that some residents living within the restricted zone reckoned the warnings as “excessive” and opted to stay home and watch television.

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Others left warning notes on their doorsteps or the entrances to their stores to ward off thieves such as “The house/store is under surveillance” or posted humorous posts on social media such as “In case something goes terribly wrong, we should all make sure we are at least well dressed for the grand finale.”

A local reporter named Anna Oviridou noted that the operation gave the locals an opportunity to see what it was like to be forced to leave your home and feel even for a few hours what refugees who landed on Greek shores over the past two years are feeling.

Approximately 400 refugees and migrants are hosted in recent months in a nearby camp set up at the premises of an abandoned factory.

On Sunday they were also evacuated by buses to a museum, the Migration Policy Ministry announced. Enditem

Source: Maria Spiliopoulou, Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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