World War II-era ‘earthquake bomb’ explodes during attempt to defuse it

WARSAW, Poland — An attempt to defuse a large, unexploded World War II ordnance culminated in the detonation of the Tallboy “earthquake bomb” on Tuesday in a Polish shipping channel.

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In the closing days of World War II, the Royal Air Force attacked Swinoujscie, Poland, which at the time was an important Nazi Germany naval stronghold. On April 6, 1945, the 617th Squadron “Dambusters” dropped 12 Tallboy bombs, including one that did not explode, destroying the German battleship Luetzow, CBS News reported.

The bomb was found in September 2019 during work to expand the channel. The bomb was found at a depth of 40 feet with its nose sticking out, the BBC reported. The 12,000 pound bombs were 21 feet long and more than 3 feet wide, according to Popular Mechanics. They were filled with about 5,100 pounds of explosives.

British aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis designed the Tallboy bombs to explode underground, which would then cause shock waves. Officials are not sure why the bomb did not explode at the time.

Officials tried using a remote-controlled device to deflagrate the device. Deflagration is a method that burns the explosives within the bomb without setting it off.

“The deflagration process turned into detonation,” Grzegorz Lewandowski, spokesman for the Polish navy’s 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla told the BBC. “The object can be considered neutralized. It will not pose any more threat.”

Video of the detonation shows a tall blast of water sent in the air. Its shock was reported in parts of the city, the BBC reported. No injuries or damage were reported.

Tallboy bombs have previously been destroyed on land in Germany, Norway and France. Poland has removed more than 96 million pieces of explosives since the end of World War II, The New York Times reported.

About 750 residents living within a 1.6 mile area near the bomb had been urged to evacuate.

“I’ve lived here 50 years and there have been other bombs, but this is the first time there’s an evacuation,” Halina Paszkowska said. “Before, we just had to stay indoors.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.