In Depth

London City Airport shut over WWII bomb - but how many are still undiscovered?

Dozens of unexploded devices are found every year in the UK

The discovery of an unexploded Second World War bomb in the River Thames has forced the closure of London City Airport, plunging 16,000 passengers into travel chaos.

The bomb, described by local officials as a “German 500kg fused device”, was unearthed by workers at the nearby George V Dock on Sunday morning. Removal operations are expected to continue until Tuesday morning, reports the London Evening Standard.

Metropolitan Police say they are working with the Navy to remove the device, which is lying in a bed of dense silt.

Due to the massive scale of the German bombing campaign in the south of England during the Second World War, dozens of unexploded bombs are found every year. 

It is impossible to know how many are still out there, Matt Brosnan, an Imperial War Museum historian, told the BBC. “Just to put it in context, the Luftwaffe dropped 24,000 tonnes of high explosive on London in 85 major raids during the War,” Brosnan said.

The Ministry of Defence said in a June 2017 Freedom of Information request that bomb disposal teams dealt with an estimated 61 unexploded Second World War bombs per year between 2010 and 2016.

The Construction Industry Research and Information Association estimated in 2009 that in the preceding three years, about 15,000 devices, including grenades, were been removed from construction sites: 5% were live, equivalent to roughly 250 devices a year.

 “It would make sense if discoveries are becoming more frequent; in many cases, original sites are being redeveloped for a second time after blocks thrown up in the postwar building boom reach the end of their useful life,” says The Guardian.

Infographic by www.statista.com/chartoftheday for TheWeek.co.uk

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