4,000 people evacuated, ferry services suspended
HONG KONG: A wartime bomb was defused in Hong Kong yesterday after forcing a busy commercial district into lockdown, with roads closed and thousands evacuated from surrounding shops, hotels and offices. It was the second time within a week that an American bomb dropped during WWII had been discovered at a harbor front construction site in Wan Chai. Police sealed off parts of the district after a worker found the device on Wednesday morning, with 4,000 people evacuated and ferry services across Victoria Harbor suspended as bomb disposal experts worked through the night.
“Bomb disposal operations are dirty, difficult and dangerous. In this particular case, all three were true,” bomb disposal officer Alick McWhirter told reporters. The rain, tricky location and a fuse mechanism that the team “couldn’t even see” all added to the challenge, McWhirter said. The experts cut a large hole through the shell to burn off explosive materials inside before a crane lifted the earth-covered bomb off the site on Thursday.
The bomb-of the same model as another unearthed over the weekend-measured 170-cm in length and weighed over 1,000 pounds. Unexploded wartime bombs or grenades are frequently found by hikers and construction workers in the southern Chinese city, which was the scene of fierce fighting between Japanese and British allied forces in 1941. In 2014 police defused a wartime bomb weighing nearly one ton, the largest yet found in the city. Hong Kong was an early target in what would become a full-blown Asian campaign for imperial Japan during the Second World War.
‘Japanese war effort’
Extra troops had been brought in to bolster its defenses, but in December 1941 the outpost of the British Empire was crushed under heavy bombardment in the 18-day Battle of Hong Kong. The brutal confrontation saw around 1,500 allied troops die trying to defend the territory. Japan occupied Hong Kong until August 30 1945, setting up internment camps across the city. Local historian Jason Wordie said the harbor where the unexploded bombs were found would have been targeted by the Americans because Japanese ships were repaired there.
“Hong Kong’s main value during the Japanese occupation was its ship repairing facilities, so putting those out of action was harming the Japanese war effort,” Wordie told AFP. At that time, before land reclamation extended the city further out into the harbor, the point where the two bombs were found would have been 500 metres out into the water. Experts say they likely failed to explode because they were slowed down by the water and then sank into the mud. US planes started to bomb Hong Kong in 1942 and 1943, but once the tide of the war turned towards the allies, the bombardment became heavier, says Wordie who predicted there were “stacks more” similar unexploded bombs still to be found. -AFP