Polish military divers are due to start a delicate operation on Monday to defuse a massive WWII bomb at the bottom of a channel near the Baltic Sea.
The five-ton aircraft – nicknamed “Tallboy” and also known as “seismic bomb” – was dropped by the Royal Air Force during an attack on a Nazi warship in 1945.
It was discovered last year during a dredging near the port town of Swinoujscie – formerly Swinemunde, part of Germany – in the far north-west of Poland.
“This is a world first. No one has ever defused such a well-preserved and underwater Tallboy,” Grzegorz Lewandowski, spokesman for the 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla of the Polish Navy, told AFP. in Swinoujscie.
About 750 local residents are evacuated from an area 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) around the bomb and the operation is expected to last up to five days.
But some residents told AFP they would stay put.
Halina Paszkowska said the “main danger” for her was the risk of catching Covid-19 in a gym where residents are staying during the operation.
Paszkowska said she also had to take care of her 88-year-old mother, adding: “I have lived here for 50 years and there have been other bombs, but this is the first time there is a evacuation! Before, we just had to stay inside. “
‘A very delicate job’
Maritime traffic on the navigation channel and the surrounding waterways will be suspended in an area of 16 kilometers around the demining operation.
“The first two or three days will be preparations. Our demining divers will scrape around the bomb, which is embedded in the bottom of the channel to a depth of 12 meters. Only its nose sticks out,” Lewandowski said.
“It’s a very delicate job … The slightest vibration could detonate the bomb,” he said, pointing out that the option of a controlled explosion was ruled out for fear of destroying a bridge at some 500 meters away.
Navy divers will instead use a technique known as blast to burn off the explosive charge without causing a detonation, using a remote-controlled device to pierce the hull to begin combustion.
The bomb is six meters (19 feet) long and contains 2.4 tons of explosives, or about 3.6 tons of TNT.
The Tallboys were designed to explode underground next to a target, unleashing shockwaves that would cause destruction.
During World War II, the region was home to one of the most important Baltic bases of the German navy and the region was subjected to massive bombardments, said historian Piotr Laskowski, author of a book on the raid of the Royal Air Force on the German cruiser Lutzow in April 1945..
The ship’s guns were used to stop the advance of the Red Army in the last days of the war.
On April 16, 1945, the RAF dispatched 18 Lancaster bombers from the 617th Squadron – known as the “Dambusters”.
The bombers released 12 Tallboys on the Lutzow, but one did not explode and one of the planes crashed on Karsibor Island, killing all seven crew members on board.
The ship survived the raid but was eventually seized by the Soviet Army and used for target practice after the war. It finally sank in the Baltic Sea in September 1947.
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