German explosives experts defused a massive second world war bomb in the financial capital of Frankfurt on Sunday after tens of thousands of people evacuated their homes.
About 60,000 people were ordered to leave in what was Germany’s biggest evacuation since the war, with more than 1,000 emergency service workers helping to clear the area around the bomb, which was discovered on a building site last week.
The bomb was found last week in the city’s leafy Westend suburb, where many wealthy bankers live, and the evacuation area included the country’s central bank, where $70bn (£54bn) in gold reserves are stored.
Frankfurt fire and police chiefs said they would use force if necessary to clear the area, warning that an uncontrolled explosion of the bomb would be big enough to flatten a city block.
Police set up cordons around the evacuation area, which covered a radius of just under a mile (1.5km), as residents dragged suitcases with them and many families left by bicycle.
The fire service said the evacuation of two hospitals, including premature babies and patients in intensive care, had been completed and they were helping about 500 elderly people to leave residences and care homes.
More than 2,000 tonnes of live bombs and munitions are found each year in Germany, even under buildings. In July, a kindergarten was evacuated after teachers discovered an unexploded second world war bomb on a shelf among some toys.
British and American warplanes pummelled Germany with 1.5 million tonnes of bombs that killed 600,000 people. Officials estimate that 15% of the bombs failed to explode, some burrowing six metres (yards) deep.
Three police explosives experts in Göttingen were killed in 2010 while preparing to defuse a 450kg (1,000lb) bomb.
Frankfurt police said they rang every doorbell and used helicopters with heat-sensing cameras to make sure nobody was left behind before they began defusing the bomb on Sunday.
Roads and transport systems, including parts of the underground, were closed during the work and for at least two hours after the bomb was defused, to allow patients to be transported back to hospitals.
Small private planes, helicopters and drones were banned from the evacuation zone. Most museums were offering residents free entry on Sunday.