WWII Bomb Explodes in German Town Seven Decades After Allied Victory

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 3 2014 12:29 PM

WWII Bomb Explodes in German Town, Killing One

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A German World War II air raid shelter in Berlin's mitte district constructed in 1942 after plans by Adolf Hitler's architect Albert Speer

File photo by John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

A bomb believed to date from World War II exploded Friday at a construction site in western Germany, killing one person and injuring at least eight others nearly seven decades after the Allied victory in Europe.

According to local police, a bulldozer driver unknowingly detonated the bomb and died as a result of the ensuing blast. Of the eight wounded, two are said to have suffered serious injuries, according to local reports. The blast occurred near Euskirchen, a town about 20  miles southeast of Cologne and about 25 miles from the country's Belgium border.

The discovery of a WWII-era bomb isn't an every-day experience in Germany, although it's a lot more common than you might think. According to the Global Post, the ground below many German cities and towns is still littered with unexploded ordnance dropped by Allied and Soviet forces during the war. The bombs are common enough that, according to CNN, private bomb disposal teams are often contracted by construction companies before many projects begin. Most bombs, thankfully, are safely defused before they do any damage.

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The discovery of a WWII bomb in Germany has occurred at least once in each of the past five years. Last April, officials briefly evacuated hundreds of people from a portion of central Berlin after a 220-pound, Russian-made bomb was unearthed near a train track in central Berlin. The year before that, police were forced to detonate a 550-pound bomb in central Munich, damaging nearby buildings in the process. In 2011, roughly 45,000 residents were evacuated from Koblenz while bomb squads took care of a pair of bombs—one of which was a 1.8-metric ton British bomb that local fire officials said could have wiped out most of the town if it would have exploded. And in 2010, three members of a bomb squad were killed when one of the devices they were working on exploded in the town of Gottingen.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.