By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
London City Airport was shut down Monday after an unexploded World War II bomb was discovered nearby.
All flights from London City Airport were cancelled for the day. The closure affects 16,000 passengers, an airport spokeswoman told the BBC. Among the passengers affected were Tottenham Hotspur soccer fans heading to Italy for a Champions League match against Italian team Juventus.
Some airlines have moved their flights to other airports, including Southend and Stansted.
London Metropolitan Police Close Airport and Evacuate Local Residents
The single-runway airport was closed at 10 p.m. Sunday after workers found the unexploded bomb at the King George V Dock by the Thames, the London Metropolitan Police said.
“At around 22:00 hrs. on Sunday, 11 February, an operational decision was made with the Royal Navy to implement a 214-metre [650 feet] exclusion zone to ensure that the ordnance can be safely dealt with whilst limiting any risk to the public,” the police statement said.
Overnight, officers and bomb specialists from the Royal Navy helped to evacuate homes within the exclusion zone. Police worked with the local authority to provide residents with temporary accommodations and the appropriate support.
Bomb Requires Careful Removal from River Silt
“The bomb is a 500 kg tapered end shell, measuring about 1.5 meters [4.9 feet] long and stuck in dense silt,” the Metropolitan Police statement said. “The first stage of the operation is to free the shell from the silt so it can be floated for removal.”
“The timing of removal is dependent on the tides. However, at this stage we estimate that the removal of the device from [its] location will be completed by tomorrow morning,” theMetropolitan Police told the BBC.
The Royal Navy is taking the necessary steps to “ensure the device is as safe as possible” before removing it from the silt and towing it away.
“We will then attach high-grade military explosives before carrying out a controlled explosion later today. The aim is to cause as little disruption to the city of London as possible,” the police statement explained.
The area where the airport now stands was once an industrial center that came under heavy bombardment from German warplanes. Unexploded ordnance still occasionally turns up during construction work.
London City Airport CEO Says Airport Will Reopen on Tuesday Morning
Robert Sinclair, the airport's CEO, said the airport would reopen at 6.30 a.m. on Tuesday. “I urge any passengers due to fly today not to come to the airport and to contact their airline for further information,” he said.
London City Airport is the only airport within the London city limits. It operates flights to and from the UK and Europe, as well as New York. More than 4.5 million people used the airport last year.