A discovery of unexploded 500-pound WWII British bomb near a local movie theater, triggered an unparalleled evacuation operation in Italy’s southern city of Brindisi on Sunday.
This was the second bomb discovery that has put Italians on alert in just one month.
About 54,000 people were told to leave the so-called “red zone” on Sunday morning as local authorities and the military prepared to defuse a heavy bomb which Britain’s Royal Air Force dropped on the city in 1941.
Over 60 percent of locals were affected by the evacuation, which turns out to be the largest since the war, according to Corriere della Serra.
All buildings inside the ‘red zone’ were evacuated as well, including hospitals, schools and even prison. More than 1,000 police officers and 250 volunteers were on hand to ensure safety in Brindisi, preventing possible acts of looting in the deserted city.
Officials feared that disarming the bomb in Brindisi was far more difficult that had been the case on previous occasions. One of its activation devices was reportedly damaged, increasing the risk of explosion, the newspaper reported.
The military dispatched an ordnance disposal team to inspect the bomb, but most of the job was done by a robot, which used its mechanical arm to defuse it. Soldiers have also built a protective barrier around the bomb to decrease the power of the blast if it were to occur.
Defusing the bomb took around 40 minutes but went smoothly, local media reported. Later in the day, Brindisi authorities expect to open up the city streets again, and allow residents to return to their homes.
Sunday’s evacuation comes two weeks after over 10,000 people were evacuated in Turin. The bomb that caused the fuss on that occasion was also a 500-pound British munition. According to the authorities, it contained 65kg (140lbs) of TNT.