Swiss village to be evacuated for ten years over explosion fears

Residents of a Swiss village have been told they may have to leave their homes for over a decade while a nearby World War II munitions store is cleared out.

Swiss village to be evacuated for ten years over explosion fears
Photo: Von Draemmli (Roland Rytz) - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0

The former underground depot at Mitholz, which contains 3,500 tons of weaponry, has partially caved in and many of the explosives are now covered by fallen rocks.

Around half of the arsenal exploded in 1947, killing nine people, but the defence ministry said the risk of a second explosion had been underestimated for decades.

The ministry, which this week launched a consultation about the evacuation, said the risk had now become “unacceptable” and “total evacuation” was the best solution.

“Depending on how the work develops, residents should expect the evacuation to last up to more than 10 years,” the ministry said, adding that the explosives would not be removed until 2031 at the earliest.

It also said a major road passing through the village — a collection of chalet-style homes — could be rerouted and a railway line would have to be covered.

The ministry added, however, that closures of both “may become necessary, at least temporarily”. The consultation will last until April 17.

“If the evacuation creates insurmountable problems… it would still be possible to significantly reduce the risks by covering the depot with rock,” the ministry said.

The defence ministry website said thousands more tons of munitions had been dropped into several Swiss lakes but detonation could be “practically excluded” as the explosives were not as concentrated as at Mitholz.

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Disposal of four WWII bombs in Göttingen soothes memories of 2010 tragedy

Some 8,000 residents of the city of Göttingen have been able to return home after a bomb disposal unit defused four WWII bombs discovered during building work.

Disposal of four WWII bombs in Göttingen soothes memories of 2010 tragedy
The evacuation zone in Göttingen. Photo: DPA

The last bomb was detonated by the explosive ordnance disposal service at around 1 am on Sunday morning, according to a spokesman for the city.

Göttingen has in the past had tragic experience with a bomb defusal operation. 

In 2010, three employees of the local Explosive Ordnance Disposal Service died when a bomb they were trying to defuse exploded. 

The memory of that disaster was on everyone’s minds this weekend, city spokesman Dominik Kimyon said.

“That incident was of course hovering over everything and shaped the mood. Now everyone is very relieved,” he said.

There are huge numbers of unexploded WWII bombs still lying under the ground in German cities, with evacuations regularly occurring after the ordnance is found during building work.

The four ten-ton WWII bombs were found during building work in Göttingen last week.

An evacuation zone with a radius of 1,000 meters was subsequently set up around the site where the bombs were found. 

More than 8,000 people had to leave their homes on Saturday, January 30th.

A total of around 260 people were provided with accommodation in several evacuation centres.

The rest of the evacuees stayed with relatives and friends. Corona regulations were temporarily suspended.

According to the city, there were no casualties during the planned detonations. However, window panes in two nearby buildings were shattered by the blast wave from the explosion

Residents were not allowed to return immediately, as exploration teams first checked the surrounding area for more explosive devices.

It was only after about two hours that most residents were given the all-clear and the exclusion zone was reopened.

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about WWII bomb disposals in Germany