by Bria Isaacson, News Editor
More than 70,000 people were evacuated from the Greek city of Thessaloniki on Sunday when a 500-pound unexploded World War II bomb was found during excavation work for the expansion of a gas station, according to the BBC. This is thought to be one of the largest bombs from the war found in urban Greece.
The police went door to door to efficiently evacuate people. Many people drove themselves outside of the evacuation zone, an area about 1.2 square miles around the bomb, while others were bussed to schools and stadiums, according to Reuters.
The BBC reported this was one of the largest peacetime evacuations in Greece.
A state of emergency was also declared for the three municipalities affected by the bomb evacuation, according to the BBC.
“We heard on TV that, if the bomb explodes, it will be like a strong earthquake,” Michalis Papanos, 71, told The Associated Press as he and his wife left their home.
The city’s bus stations and trains were shut down, and the city booked a hotel for people with limited mobility in order to execute the evacuation successfully, according to CBS.
Military officers of the Hellenic Army’s Explosives Ordinance Disposal have deactivated the bomb, which will be taken to a military firing range to be neutralized, according to Reuters.
Regional Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas wrote on Twitter, “Phase two of the bomb removal operation was successfully completed. Citizens can safely return to their homes.”
Officials told the BBC that the bomb was not able to be identified as either a German or an Allied bomb because it was too degraded.
However, 86-year-old Giorgos Gerasimou told CBS that he remembers the day the bomb fell. “The bombing was done by English and American planes on Sept. 17, 1944. It was Sunday lunchtime,” he said.
According to Gerasimou, the Allies were targeting German rail factories, as Nazi Germany occupied Greece from 1941 to October 1944.