August 29, 2012

A bomb disposal team has detonated an American bomb left over from World War II found in the German city of Munich after efforts to defuse it were unsuccessful.

Defusing leftover bombs from World War II hidden in the ground beneath German cities has long been routine. The area surrounding the bomb is first evacuated, experts arrive to defuse the explosive and before long, things get back to normal. Apparently, it is such a normal part of life there, the detonations don't even merit a mention in the German media.

However, the situation in Munich on Tuesday night was far from routine. Unable to defuse the 250 kilogram (550 pound) bomb found buried one meter (three feet) deep at the site of an old bar in the heart of the Bavarian capital, authorities chose to detonate the explosive on site. The controlled blast sent a fireball into the night sky, shattered windows in the area, and caused several small fires on surrounding rooftops. Thankfully, there were no injuries, and only "minor" damages.

The find is almost certain not to be the last. Tens of thousands of unexploded bombs are thought to still lie undiscovered in German cities, leftover from the Allied bombing raids that demolished the country's metropolitan areas in World War II. Officials in Munich estimate that there are some 2,500 bombs buried in the Bavarian capital alone. There have been four significant discoveries of unexploded ordnance in the city this year. Just one week ago, officials in Nuremberg succeeded in defusing a similar 250-kilogram bomb.

Experts say that the undiscovered bombs in Germany become more dangerous with each passing year. Last year, a former bomb disposal chief told SPIEGEL ONLINE that "unexploded bombs are becoming more dangerous by the day through material fatigue as a result of ageing and through erosion of safety elements in the trigger mechanisms."

World War II bombs, however, are not just a problem in Germany. Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on Wednesday morning closed Terminal C, which handles most flights to destinations in Europe, parts of Terminal D and a landing strip after workers there found an unexploded World War II bomb. Several flights were cancelled and others were delayed as a result. The airport was heavily bombed during World War II as it was used by German troops during the occupation of the Netherlands.

Furthermore, a 1.5 ton bomb was discovered in Warsaw on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of 3,000 people in the center of the city. The explosive was of German origin, presumably a result of the 1944 bombardment of the city by the Nazis.

World War II ended 70+ years ago, and the effects are still being dealt with on a routine basis. I hope the media there will continue to report the findings of such bombs, regardless of how often. Those in power who send our loved ones off to war should be reminded as often as possible just how far into the future their decisions will carry an impact.

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