German police today evacuated 50,000 people from the northern city of Hanover in one of the country's largest post-war operations to defuse World War II era bombs. Residents in a densely populated part of the city were ordered to leave their homes for the operation, planned since mid-April, to remove several recently discovered unexploded bombs.
Authorities had expected to remove as many as five bombs but as the day developed it emerged that there were fewer. By mid-afternoon, experts had extracted three British bombs -- two of which were defused successfully. The third bomb will require special equipment to be made safe.
At two other sites, only scrap was found.
Seven retirement and nursing homes were affected and some rail traffic through the city was disrupted because of the operation, which was expected to last all day.
Local authorities arranged sports, cultural and leisure activities, including museum visits and film screenings for residents affected by the evacuation.
Museums opened their doors for free, while cinemas offered special screenings at discounted prices.
Those who needed rest could head to three sites where almost 1,000 beds were available, as well as 10,000 portions of goulash, said Bild daily.
Local church groups also joined in to distribute food, added the newspaper.
More than 70 years after the end of the war, unexploded bombs are regularly found buried on German land, legacies of the intense bombing campaigns by the Allied forces against Nazi Germany.
The biggest such evacuation took place last Christmas, when an unexploded British bomb forced 54,000 people out of their homes in the southern city of Augsburg.