Authorities in Germany kicked off on Sunday the evacuation of more than 60,000 residents ahead of defusing a WWII-era bomb.
Construction workers found the 1.8-ton (4,000-pound) British bomb Tuesday. Officials have ordered residents to evacuate homes within a 1.5-kilometer (nearly a mile) radius of the site in Germany’s financial capital.
Hospital patients and the elderly are among those affected in what will be Germany’s biggest evacuation in recent history.
Dozens of ambulances lined up before driving to pick up anyone unable to independently leave the danger zone.
Similar operations are still common 72 years after the war ended. About 20,000 people were evacuated from the western city of Koblenz before specialists disarmed a 500-kilogram US bomb Saturday.
Frankfurt emergency service staff started to evacuate patients from two hospitals in Germany’s financial capital on Saturday ahead of the planned defusing of the bomb.
More than 100 hospital patients, including premature infants and those in intensive care, were evacuated on Saturday, Frankfurt city councilor Markus Frank told Reuters television.
More than 2,000 tons of live bombs and munitions are found each year in Germany, even under buildings. In July, a kindergarten was evacuated after teachers discovered an unexploded World War II bomb on a shelf among some toys.
Frankfurt fire and police chiefs said they would use force and incarceration if necessary to clear the area of residents, warning that an uncontrolled explosion of the bomb would be big enough to flatten a city block.
The HC 4000 bomb is assumed to have been dropped by Britain’s Royal Air Force during the 1939-45 war.
The country was pummeled by 1.5 million tons of bombs from British and American warplanes that killed 600,000 people. German officials estimate 15 percent of the bombs failed to explode, some burrowing six meters (yards) deep.
Three police explosives experts in Goettingen were killed in 2010 while preparing to defuse a 1,000 lb (450 kg) bomb.
Police will ring every doorbell and use helicopters with heat-sensing cameras to make sure nobody is left behind before they start defusing the bomb on Sunday.
Roads and transport systems, including the parts of the underground, will be closed during the work and for at least two hours after the bomb is defused, to allow patients to be transported back to hospitals.
Air traffic from Frankfurt airport could also be affected if there is an easterly wind on Sunday. Also, small private planes, helicopters and drones will be banned from the evacuation zone.
Frankfurters can spend the day at shelters set up at the trade fair and the Jahrhunderthalle convention center. Most museums are offering residents free entry on Sunday, and a few of them will open their doors earlier in the morning than usual.