More than 2,000 people were evacuated from downtown Hong Kong Thursday and roads closed after a World War II bomb weighing almost a tonne was discovered on a construction site, police said.
The giant US Navy ANM66 bomb, one of the largest undetonated wartime bombs ever found in the former British colony, was discovered by workers in Happy Valley district, near the city’s famous racing track.
An officer at the site, located near a Sikh temple, hotels and a residential housing area, said it would take bomb disposal experts several hours to remove the live explosives from the bomb casing.
Some 2,260 people were evacuated after the bomb was found by construction site workers at around 3.40 pm (0740 GMT).
Television footage showed a large part of the bomb, which was largely covered by rust and mud, lying exposed to the air.
“It is believed that in 1945, when the US military was bombing Hong Kong, it could have landed on soft mud so it was not detonated,” Yuen Hon-wing, a senior bomb disposal officer, told reporters at the scene late Thursday.
“If it went off accidentally it would cause serious damage. Buildings could collapse,” he said.
“Residents in the area, including guests from hotels and a temple, have been evacuated. Some roads are temporarily closed,” a police spokeswoman told AFP.
The bomb weighed 2,000 pounds – over 900 kilograms – and was more than five feet (1.7 metres) long, with a diameter of two feet (0.6 metres), police said.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said the discovery created panic among tourists staying at nearby hotels.
Anil Yildirim, a 24-year-old visitor from Turkey, said: “At first I was afraid. I thought ‘it’s a bomb’, so we rushed upstairs for our bags. Now we’re waiting for them to fix the problem.”
A police spokeswoman told AFP that it was the second time such a bomb had been discovered, with a similar explosive uncovered last March near the Tai Tam country park on Hong Kong Island.
The former British colony was the scene of fierce fighting between invading Japanese forces and defending powers in December 1941.
A British shell was found and detonated in a controlled explosion at the Peak, one of the city’s prime tourist destinations and home to some of Hong Kong’s most expensive real estate, in November of last year.