Army tries to defuse wartime bomb keeping east Londoners out of homes

Hundreds of residents in east London remain locked out of their homes as an army bomb disposal unit attempts to defuse a second world war bomb found on a local building site in Bethnal Green.

The German aircraft bomb was discovered by contractors on Monday afternoon and led to the introduction of a 200m police hazard zone and the evacuation of 700 people from local houses and businesses.

Experts from the Ministry of Defence arrived at Temple Street, Bethnal Green, at around 5pm to defuse the 500lb device and continued to work throughout Monday night.

Some 500 people have chosen to remain in their homes. They have been advised by emergency services to stay away from any windows.

A spokesman for the London fire brigade said the bomb disposal unit was still in the process of making the bomb safe.

“The difficulty is that it’s in the basement of a property. Builders working within the basement discovered it. All the disposal unit can do is make it reasonably safe, but they’ve then got to get the bomb out. It’s hoped at sometime today the bomb will be removed from the property, but it’s difficult because we can’t just carry it out the doorway, it’s a 500lb bomb.”

The spokesman added: “The fire service is working alongside the military and police to come up with a safe way of actually lifting it through the floor of the basement. We’ve got specialist teams who know about building construction. We’re doing everything possible to make it happen today.”

He added that a potential blast area would affect the 200m radius. “All we can do is ask residents to leave and give advice to the people who chose to stay. If at any point we felt the danger was so great we would have to move to forcefully removing residents, but at this point we can’t do that.”

A Tower Hamlets council spokesman said it had agreed to extend the exclusion zone to 200m after discussions with the army, the London fire brigade and the Metropolitan police.

“We understand that this will cause inconvenience for a lot of residents. We urge residents to look at alternative places to stay for the night. We do have an operating rest centre at the Bethnal Green Academy – where we will be providing beds, food, drinks, and wash bags,” the spokesman said.

Police have advised motorists to avoid several roads including Old Bethnal Green Road, Warner Place, Squirries Street, Bethnal Green Road, Cambridge Heath Road and Hackney Road.

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