Unexploded WWII bomb found in Plymouth to be moved by military convoy through city and 'disposed of' at sea

An unexploded Second World War bomb found at a property in Plymouth is being removed and transported by a military convoy through the city for disposal at sea.

Any resident of the Devon city living within 300 metres of the convoy route has been told to evacuate their home between the hours of 2pm and 5pm this afternoon.

Photos from the site where the device was dug up show the size of the explosive, after homeowners were warned their homes would be "destroyed" if it detonated.

Around 3,000 people are still away from their homes while a 300-metre exclusion zone is maintained to keep the public safe.

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Updates as bomb removed by military convoy

Bomb disposal experts said earlier a controlled explosion was considered but ruled out.

The "safest and least impactful option" is to "remove the device from St Michael Avenue and travel to the Torpoint Ferry slipway - for the bomb to be disposed of at sea (beyond the Breakwater)".

Plymouth City Council added: "Highly trained bomb disposal experts will carefully remove the device from the property and it will be transported by road in a military convoy, west along Parkside and Royal Navy Avenue, joining at the junction on Saltash Road to continue south joining Albert Road, turning right along Park Avenue and heading down Ferry Road to the Torpoint Ferry terminal."

'Everyone must avoid the area'

In a press conference this afternoon, Superintendent Phil Williams of Devon and Cornwall Police said the convoy would take about 20 minutes as it passed through the city to the sea.

Supt Williams was interrupted during his update by the sound of the government's alert system sending notifications to mobile phones in the area.

The police officer reiterated the convoy option had been deemed the "lowest risk" way to deal with the explosive device.

The main train line has also been closed during the operation to dispose of the bomb. Ferries, including the Torpoint Ferry, have been suspended and buses diverted, according to the council.

The council said "everyone must avoid the area" while the bomb is being moved.

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How will bomb disposal operation work?

It added residents can call 01752 668000 if they need help or support.

The council added: "The rest centre at the Life Centre remains open to support people who do not have anywhere to go."

Once the operation is complete, the police will begin to reopen the roads.

Neighbour said MoD 'prepared us for worst'

A woman who lives next door to where the bomb was found said on Facebook the last week has been a "rollercoaster of emotions".

She said that the device was just one metre away from her dining room, and added: "We've had meetings with the MoD to prepare us for the worst which meant we have totally had to gut our house yesterday with 25 military [personnel] loading up removal vans - which, as you can imagine, was overwhelming in itself, just chucking everything we own into box after box within one hour while of course it was absolutely lashing down!

"The house looks like it's been ransacked - with windows left open and sandbags piled inside for protection, chunks taken out of doorframes, damaged walls and filthy carpets - but we will take this over having no house left at all."

The woman also said she was told at first that the bomb could not be moved and would have to be detonated in the garden, "which could result in our homes collapsing to the ground".

After news broke that the device would be moved to the breakwater, she called it "the best news we could hope for."

But she added that "this does not mean we are safe yet as it is still active and could go off".

She continued: "Our street as a whole has been through hell the last few nights with no sleep and endless calls to see if we would be insured. Not all of us are - so please have hope and prayers that we all get out of this with as minimal damage as possible.

"Although I don't think I have ever experienced trauma like it and feel it will be a long road to recovery for us all."

'Any interaction could cause bomb to function'

Sky News has confirmed that the bomb is likely to be an SC 500, which was commonly used by Nazi Luftwaffe pilots during the Second World War. It is also believed to weigh 500kg.

Gary Little, a former Royal Engineers bomb disposal expert, told Sky that the main concern of those transporting the bombs will be "the condition of the fuse on the device".

"It's been in the ground for 50-plus years, so it will have deteriorated," he said. "If they can't immunise or remove the fuse on site, then they will take it away and pack it up to make sure it doesn't move in its position where they can deal with it in a safer environment.

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"I can't go into the details of the actual procedure for the removal to diffuse - there are a number that they can use.

"But I would imagine that the fuse has deteriorated to such a point that any interaction with it could well cause it to function.

"So rather than take that risk, it's likely they will just carefully remove the device to deal with it later."

'Organised chaos', says resident

Miss Sarah Rowe, headteacher at Keyham Barton Catholic Primary School, also told Sky News that her school has closed early ahead of the bomb being moved.

She said that "the local authority has been excellent - they've been providing regular updates," and added that as of 1.55pm only two girls were left on the premises.

"The whole school family has come together to make sure everyone is safe - spirits are high," she said.

"It's something that could have been so scary and negative but I have been so proud of how everyone has come together. We've had lots of support from the local trust.

"It's the 'little things' that have made me so proud - we've offered the school up as a drop-off area for the last couple of days and have been offering food up to local people."

But others say the evacuation has turned into "organised chaos" after the roads were closed half an hour earlier than expected.

A resident has told Sky News his family was stuck within the "bomb site", with nobody able "to get in or out".

The man said he had received emails telling him the roads would close at 2pm, but they were shut at 1.30pm.

"I am absolutely fuming. My family is stuck in there and there's two people here saying I'm not allowed in," he added.

Owner warned 'houses were going to be destroyed'

The owner of the property where the bomb was found on St Michael Avenue in Keyham previously said he was carrying out building works in his garden when the explosive was uncovered by rain.

He reported the possible explosive to Devon and Cornwall Police, who declared a "major incident" on Tuesday and evacuated properties within 200 metres.

In an update on Thursday morning, Plymouth Council said the cordon had been extended to 309 metres, affecting 1,219 properties and an estimated 3,250 people.

Royal Naval Bomb Disposal experts have since dug around the explosive and used a special device to assess it.

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'A very scary moment'

Sky News spoke to residents affected by the cordon, with a local mechanic from Wayne's Mobile Mechanic Ltd saying on Thursday that "it's been a very scary moment for myself, my wife and three children".

When asked what the reaction of the community has been, he said: "It's unbelievable and very scary as we live yards from the scene."

Plymouth saw more than 50 bombing attacks during the Second World War, and in 2011 an explosive device was unearthed by a workman at a building in Notte Street, near the city's Hoe.

The device was made safe before it was moved to the seabed off Plymouth Sound, with an exclusion zone around it, before it was detonated in a controlled explosion by Royal Navy experts.