Nearly half of the 107,000 residents of Germany's western city of Koblenz had to leave their homes Sunday as experts prepared to defuse a 1.8 tonne Second World War-era bomb discovered in the Rhine river.
It's one of Germany's biggest bomb-related evacuations since the war ended, and some 2,500 police officers, firefighters and paramedics were on duty across the city to secure the operation.
Authorities set up shelters in parts of Koblenz farther away from the bomb site, and shuttle buses were on hand in the morning to carry residents to safety.
The evacuation of some 45,000 residents living within a radius of about 2 kilometres from the bomb site was finished by early Sunday afternoon, the city said on its website.
The British bomb could cause massive damage if it exploded. It was found last week alongside a 125-kilogram U.S. bomb and a smoke grenade after the Rhine's water level fell significantly due to a prolonged lack of rain. All the devices were to be defused Sunday.
Finding unexploded bombs dropped by the Allies over Germany is common even more than 65 years after the war's end. The explosives are usually defused or brought to a controlled explosion without causing injuries.
Officials have built a dam of hundreds of sand bags around the bomb site in the river bed to pump water out in preparation for the delicate task. Bomb experts started defusing the bombs early Sunday afternoon, Koblenz firefighter spokesman Heiko Breitbarth said.
Train and road traffic has come to a halt in the area, some 130 kilometres northwest of Frankfurt. Seven nursing homes, two hospitals and a prison with some 200 inmates in Koblenz were also evacuated.
"Please close your houses and apartments, close your windows and, if possible, the shutters. Please think of bringing sufficient quantity of any medicine you might need," residents were advised by the city via leaflets and radio transmissions.
Several hundred city officials went from door to door Sunday morning, ringing the bells to check whether any residents had failed to evacuate the area.
The residents of Koblenz, which was heavily bombarded during the Second World War are somewhat used to bomb scares. City officials said 28 smaller war bombs had been found there since 1999, the German news agency dapd reported. Such bombs in Germany are often found during construction work or by farmers plowing their fields.