During the delicate operation, which could last up to five days, a 10-mile exclusion zone has been declared at sea and some 750 local residents have been evacuated. For the first three days the divers will work to expose the bomb, only the nose of which is currently visible, knowing that any small vibration could detonate the device.
Although a controlled explosion would have been safer, the option was ruled out for fear of destroying a bridge some 500m away.
Meanwhile in Australia a bomb of unknown origin was reported in April by an angler fishing on biodiverse Elizabeth Reef north of Lord Howe Island, 340 miles off New South Wales.
The device was declared to pose a “significant risk” to the public, but amid Covid restrictions the authorities closed the reef to visitors until the bomb could be dealt with in late September.
Royal Australian Navy clearance divers aboard HMAS Adelaide lifted the device to the surface, but rather than risk defusing it the ship carried it further out to sea and dropped it into 550m-deep waters where no deep-sea trawling is permitted.
The bomb’s age could not be determined because of deterioration, but bombs of this size had been deployed by aircraft against enemy submarines during WW2.
“The device was regarded as live by the Navy and the consequences could have been quite frightening,” stated Environment Minister Susan Ley. “Thankfully the reef’s precious ecosystem is safe and, most importantly, so are future visitors.”