Second WWII bomb safely defused in Maribor
Maribor, 3 November - A 500kg World War Two bomb was safely defused in Maribor on Sunday, hours after hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in the direct vicinity, with sirens sounding the end of the alarm.
In the largest such operation in Slovenia's second largest city since 1945, the authorities called on 1,000 people living within a 300-metre radius of the bomb to leave their homes.
A further 2,200 residents in a 300-600-metre radius were told to keep indoors and away from the windows facing the bomb site close to a rail track near the city's main coach station.
A similar, but much smaller operation was carried out in Maribor on Thursday as a 250kg bomb from WWII was safely disposed of near the city's biggest shopping mall, leading to the evacuation of 80 people.
"The pyrotechnicians have succeeded in safely defusing the bomb," Maribor police spokesman Miran Šadl told reporters after sirens signalled the end of danger at around 2pm. "The danger is over and people can return to their homes," said Šadl.
The evacuation started at around 8am, completing shortly before noon, after which members of the national unexploded ordnance disposal team got down to work.
"481 people got evacuated," Šadl said, adding that the operation proceeded smoothly except that in three cases residents had to be prompted by police officers to retreat to safety.
The pyrotechnics Sašo Turnšek and Aljaž Leban did not specify the procedure, expect for saying that they removed the detonator with a special tool, and thanking everyone involved in the operation for allowing them to work in peace.
The unit commander Darko Zonjič too praised cooperation with all the services involved and lauded the people of Maribor for following the authorities' instructions.
The air bombs were discovered last weekend during construction work, the smaller bomb was found at a site close to the Europark shopping mall and the larger one at a railway construction site.
Both bombs will be destroyed within three months through phased burning of the explosive. Zonjič said that a potential detonation today would have caused extensive damage to property.
Due to the operation, several roads as well as the central coach and railway stations were temporarily closed, and gas supply was disrupted. Europark area was sealed off again today.
Maribor, which the Nazi Germany made part of the Third Reich, was heavily bombed by the allied forces during World War Two. It is estimated that close to 16,000 bombs were dropped on the city, some 200 of which are believed to continue to lie unexploded across the city.
Today, officials did not make estimates about further potential operations needed, but Zonjič welcomed the city authorities' plans to make detection of the ground mandatory before construction work.