Assessment of structural damage to properties continues after bomb detonation

Claire Hayhurst, PA
·3-min read

Residents from properties surrounding the site in Exeter where a Second World War bomb was detonated have been told they may not be able to return home by Sunday evening.

The device, believed to be a 1,000kg “Hermann” bomb used by the Nazis, was discovered on a building site on private land to the west of the University of Exeter campus on Friday morning.

Initially, a 100-metre cordon was erected, but this was extended to 400 metres on Saturday at the request of the Royal Navy bomb disposal team.

Residents at about 2,600 properties in the vicinity of Glenthorne Road, including 1,400 university students, were evacuated on Friday and Saturday.

The controlled detonation of the device took place at 6.10pm on Saturday, with the explosion heard for miles.

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On Sunday afternoon, Devon and Cornwall Police advised residents to plan for the eventuality that they would not be able to return home that evening.

A force spokesman said it was “impossible to predict” whether safety assessment work would be concluded on Sunday.

“Regrettably, a number of properties predominantly within the 100-metre cordon have suffered structural damage including broken windows and cracked walls,” he said.

“In addition, debris, including large metal objects, were thrown in the blast, some of which landed on nearby roofs, which require the use of a crane to remove.

“Fencing is being erected this afternoon around those buildings deemed unsafe. This is approximately in line with the 100-metre cordon. Residents who live within this cordon will not be able to return home this evening.

“The council has confirmed that the majority of residents who have been evacuated from the wider 400-metre cordon are staying with friends or family. Those who are in hotel accommodation can stay in their hotels this evening.

“Every effort is being made to determine whether residents in the wider cordon will be able to return this evening.”

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An update is expected to be issued at about 8.30pm on Sunday.

Exeter University is communicating directly with the 1,400 students evacuated from their halls of residence, who are currently staying in alternative accommodation.

The students have already been informed that they will not be returning on Sunday, police said.

To mitigate the impact of the blast, about 400 tonnes of sand was transported to the site and walls were erected by the Royal Navy bomb disposal experts and Army personnel from the Royal Logistic Corps.

However, on Saturday police confirmed that the blast had been “significant”, leaving a crater around the size of a double decker bus and debris thrown at least 250 metres away.

There were are no concerns regarding the explosion, which caused a large plume of sand, on public health grounds, the force added.

A council hotline for evacuated residents who need help and support will be available until 7pm on Sunday but people will not be able to receive information about damage to specific properties through it.

The number is 0345 155 1015.