Bomb big bang to take place today

AN OPERATION to detonate a 500 kilo bomb off the Felixstowe coast is expected to resume again today. It had been expected to happen at 2pm but was put back until at least 6pm because strong currents were hampering the Royal Navy's operation.

AN OPERATION to detonate a 500 kilo bomb off the Felixstowe coast is expected to resume again today.

It had been expected to happen at 2pm but was put back until at least 6pm because strong currents were hampering the Royal Navy's operation.

It was then decided last night that the bomb disposal team would examine the bomb again today and attempt an explosion then.

They want to carry out the detonation when there is enough water to cushion the impact of the explosion. A sea exclusion zone has been set up above the bomb to protect boats overnight.

More Royal Navy divers and a larger boat are expected to arrive this morning to assist the operation.

A police spokesman said: “The bomb was towed two miles out to sea today by RN Mine disposal to be countermined - that is, to be exploded by a small charge to be fixed to it once in position on the seabed - and its GPS location is known.

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“However the strong tidal streams have prevented Navy divers from completing the operation.

“The bomb itself is no more dangerous than it was when first found; however, the exclusion zone imposed by the MCA remains in place until the bomb can be exploded.

“Ashore, those people evacuated from their homes in a police operation were allowed to return home soon after midday today once the bomb had been taken more than half a mile out to sea.”

Dozens of people descended on Felixstowe's promenade and cliffs close to Felixstowe Ferry yesterday, eager to catch a glimpse of the Second World War German bomb as it exploded.

Many had brought sun chairs and hot flasks and spent most of the afternoon in the sunshine until it became clear there would be no big bang that afternoon.

Christine Jones, from Ipswich, caught the bus to the seaside town hoping to see the massive explosion at sea.

“All I did was put the radio on to find out what the weather forecast was when I heard about it and I thought: 'It's a good day, why not?',” she said.

“I thought it was a hoax at first.”

Refreshment kiosks were brimming with customers for most of the afternoon but the majority of spectators opted for a hot cup of tea in the chilly April winds rather than the traditional ice-cream.

Up to 1,200 Felixstowe residents were told to leave their homes on Monday and were asked to seek shelter with friends and family. Many families spent the night at Brackenbury Sports Centre in High Road East, Felixstowe, before they were allowed back yesterday lunch-time.

Roads around the area were cordoned off and Langer Primary School in Langer Road was closed all day.

Earlier, a police spokeswoman warned that residents had been seen going back to their homes within the cordon before it was safe.

“If the bomb goes off this could cause substantial damage,” they warned.

Experts from the Royal Navy's Bomb Disposal Unit said the 500kg Second World War bomb - thought to be one of the largest ever to be washed up on Britain's coastline - had the potential to “flatten” a huge area of Felixstowe's seafront if it exploded - and cause collateral damage up to half a mile inland.

The huge German shell was swept on to the beach by wind-lashed waves over the weekend - and was spotted by a workman who accidentally scooped it into his digger bucket.

Police set up a half-mile exclusion zone along the seaside of Langer Road, between Under Cliff Road West and Manor Road.

The Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Squad arrived at the scene on Monday night to identify the bomb once the tide had gone out.

It turned out to be much larger than first thought and police were immediately advised to evacuate homes surrounding the area for safety reasons.

The five-strong bomb disposal team secured the shell so it would not be washed back out to sea by the next high tide.

They returned yesterday morning to attach the bomb to inflatable towing equipment and at about 10.30am it was taken out to sea at high tide.

Petty Officer Diver Dave Moore said: “We have positively identified it as a 500kg German bomb from the Second World War.”

P/O Moore said his team would probably be about 400-500 metres away from the bomb when it was detonated.

He said the noise of the explosion would be heard throughout the town.

Superintendent Ian Sibney said the operation to evacuate people from their homes had gone according to plan.

“Obviously the police are very grateful for the co-operation and support of members of the public who were affected by the cordon,” he said.

“Generally people were very compliant with our police requests and they understood it was beyond anyone's control. We were looking at it from the point of view of protecting people's lives and property which is why we had the cordon in place.

“We paid tribute to our colleagues in the ambulance service, fire and district councils who have worked closely together to make sure it has been a smooth and well-run operation.

“The more the organisations work together the greater the understanding we have of each other's practices.”