Polish divers to defuse WWII 'earthquake bomb'

Polish military divers will begin a delicate operation Monday to defuse a massive WWII bomb at the bottom of a canal near the Baltic Sea.
Nicknamed the "Tallboy" and also known as the "Earthquake Bomb", the five-tonne device was dropped by the Royal Air Force in an attack on a Nazi warship in 1945.
It was discovered last year while dredging near the port town of Swinoujscie - formerly Swinemunde, part of Germany - in the far north-west of Poland.
"It's a world first. Nobody has ever defused a tallboy who is so well preserved and underwater," Grzegorz Lewandowski, spokesman for the 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla of the Polish Navy based in Swinoujscie, told AFP.
Around 750 local residents will be evacuated from an area 2.5 kilometers around the bomb, and the operation is expected to take up to five days.
But some residents told AFP they would stay there.
Halina Paszkowska said the "main threat" for her is the risk of catching Covid-19 in a sports hall where residents are given protection during the operation.
Paszkowska said she had to take care of her 88-year-old mother too, adding, "I've lived here for 50 years and there have been other bombs, but this is the first time there has been an evacuation! Before that we just had to stay inside . "

- 'A very delicate job' -
Maritime traffic on the shipping canal and the surrounding waterways will be suspended over an area of ​​16 kilometers around the bomb disposal site.
"The first two or three days will be preparations. Our bomb disposal divers will scrape around the bomb, which is embedded at a depth of 12 meters in the bottom of the canal. Only the nose is sticking out," said Lewandowski.
"It's a very delicate task ... the slightest vibration could detonate the bomb," he said, pointing out that the possibility of a controlled explosion was ruled out for fear of destroying a bridge about 500 meters away.
The marine divers instead use a technique known as deflagration to burn the explosive charge without causing a detonation, and use a remote-controlled device to pierce the shell and begin burning.
The bomb is six meters long and contains 2.4 tons of explosives - that's about 3.6 tons of TNT.
Tallboys were designed to explode underground next to a target, creating shock waves that would cause destruction.

- 'Dambusters' raid -
During the Second World War, the area was home to one of the most important Baltic bases of the German Navy and was massively bombed, said historian Piotr Laskowski, author of a book about the Royal Air Force raid on the German Lutzow cruiser in April 1945.
The ship cannons were used to stop the advance of the Red Army in the last days of the war.
On April 16, 1945, the RAF sent 18 Lancaster bombers from the 617th Squadron - known as "Dambusters".
The bombers released 12 tallboys on the Lutzow, but one did not explode and one of the planes crashed on the island of Karsibor, killing all seven crew members on board.
The ship survived the raid but was eventually confiscated by the Soviet Army and used as a target exercise after the war. It finally sank in the Baltic Sea in September 1947.
bur-sw / dt / yy

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