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Hundreds of Plymouth homes are left empty with thousands needing a place to stay as efforts continue to defuse WW2 German bomb found in back garden


Hundreds of homes in Plymouth, Devon have been left empty with thousands needing a place to stay as efforts to defuse a WW2 German bomb found in a back garden enter a third day.

A major incident was declared on Tuesday when the bomb was found in the back garden of a house in Keyham, just outside Plymouth city centre.

The father of the property owner and a builder exposed enough of the ordnance to realise it was a suspected bomb, and police were called to the scene just after 10.30am on Tuesday.

A 200 meter cordon was put in place as the Royal Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal team attended the area but following new guidance, the cordon has been extended to 309 meter to allow experts to work on the unexploded weapon. 

It is estimated that at least 3250 people have had to move from their homes and find temporary accommodation.

Hundreds of homes have been left empty as thousands of locals have been evacuated

Hundreds of homes have been left empty as thousands of locals have been evacuated

Residents inside the new 309m cordon have been forced to take precious belongings with the as they evacuate their homes

Residents inside the new 309m cordon have been forced to take precious belongings with the as they evacuate their homes

Some residents are refusing to leave despite locals being told to evacuate by 9am this morning while others have packed bags ready to leave

Some residents are refusing to leave despite locals being told to evacuate by 9am this morning while others have packed bags ready to leave

Residents in the new cordon zone began evacuating this morning

Bomb experts have been called and 'thousands of tonnes of sand' will be bagged up and placed around the bomb

Bomb experts have been called and ‘thousands of tonnes of sand’ will be bagged up and placed around the bomb

Two residents have said they will be staying in a hotel until they are allowed back home. 

Kayja Cullen and Jordan Brett returned to feed their pet rabbits and collect medicine but said they were not sure when they would allowed back.

‘This could be more than 24 hours or another officer just said this might be a few days, so we don’t know what’s going on,’ Mr Brett said.

Maureen Brock, 90, who lives near to where the bomb was found, said she was not surprised a suspected device had been found in the area. 

Alan Taylor, 73, who lives on Maristow Road said: ‘I have somewhere to stay during the day, with a friend, but I’ve not got a bed. They told me to leave my windows open. I’m insured but can’t do anything about it, though I’m a bit worried.’ 

The current cordon covers 1219 properties. 

Ruth Enoch told the local newspaper she had moved out of her home on Tuesday with her two children aged nine and six.

The family moved in with a friend but now that house is in the cordon zone and Ruth and her friend have had to move again with no idea where they will go.

She said: ‘I did not leave with anything on Tuesday. We had five minutes to evacuate, I couldn’t pick anything up. The children are still in their school uniforms, they have been wearing them for two days now.’

The city saw more than 50 bombing attacks by German aircraft during World War Two with many unexploded bombs being discovered since then.

Ms Brock said she had been advised to leave her home on Royal Navy Avenue, where she has lived since 1972 but she did not want to go.

She said: ‘Well I’m not surprised really, not around here… they’re always finding something.’

Some residents are refusing to leave despite locals being told to evacuate by 9am this morning.

Residents carried small suitcases and bags of their belongings as they left their homes in Keyham, Plymouth

Residents carried small suitcases and bags of their belongings as they left their homes in Keyham, Plymouth

Some residents said they were unable to stay with relatives or friends and would instead be staying in a hotel

Some residents said they were unable to stay with relatives or friends and would instead be staying in a hotel

The bomb cordon zone was extended to 309 metres this morning

The bomb cordon zone was extended to 309 metres this morning

The current cordon covers 1219 properties

The current cordon covers 1219 properties

Local emergency services have been on hand to assisst the bomb disposal unit

Local emergency services have been on hand to assisst the bomb disposal unit

One woman told PlymouthLive her property did not fall inside the cordon.

She said: ‘I’m not going they can come and get me.’

A local leisure centre was opened at 7am this morning to offer support to evacuees with finding accommodation.

The centre is offering a creche, faith room as well as tea, coffee and basic toiletries. 

A free shuttle bus has been put on for evacuees as police knocked on doors and asked locals  to leave their homes by 9am following the extension of the cordon.

The shuttle will pick up throughout the morning and transport families who do not have their own transport to the Plymouth Life Centre 

A police source told PlymouthLive that a ‘gold command meeting’ involving a number of agencies will take place to formulate a plan over the coming days, and the EOD are bringing in ‘thousands of tonnes of sand’ to be bagged up and placed around the bomb.

A police source told the local newspaper that the discussion will be led by EOD experts who will explain their potential course of action

The source said they understood there was a layer of expertise ‘above EOD’ who were brought in due to the location of the bomb, its size and power.

As a result, they confirmed that the EOD are bringing in ‘thousands of tonnes of sand’ which would be bagged up and placed around the bomb.

Bomb experts from the Royal Navy’s EOD unit identified the bomb as a ‘SC500 transverse fuzed airdrop weapon,’ the Ministry of Defence confirmed.

A WW2 German bomb found in a back garden in Plymouth, Devon and a major incident has been declared as experts work to diffuse the device

A WW2 German bomb found in a back garden in Plymouth, Devon and a major incident has been declared as experts work to diffuse the device

The council asked residents to make arrangements to stay with friends or family while the bomb is dealt with

The council asked residents to make arrangements to stay with friends or family while the bomb is dealt with

The streets of Keyham, Plymouth were deserted after at least 3250 people had to move out of their homes following the extension of the cordon area

The streets of Keyham, Plymouth were deserted after at least 3250 people had to move out of their homes following the extension of the cordon area

The bomb disposal unit were called to the scene to deal with the reported bomb on Tuesday

The bomb disposal unit were called to the scene to deal with the reported bomb on Tuesday

The SC500 is a general purpose bomb which was used by the Luftwaffe during World War II – one of which was found off the north coast of Guernsey in July 2023.

The device typically weighs 500kg and measures at 80 inches long.

In an update yesterday evening, the city council confirmed the updated cordon will be in place for at least 36 hours and teams will knock on the doors of those living in the boundary from 8am today.

The council has urged those affected by the evacuation to make arrangements to stay with relatives or friends, but the local Life Centre and Beacon Centre will also be available.

However, the local authority warned that pets will not be accepted at the facilities.

Those who have been forced to abandon their homes tonight will be able to collect their belongings this evening.

The latest update from the council reads: ‘Following advice from the Army, the cordon around the major incident on St Michael Avenue will be extended from 200 metres to just over 309 metres from 9am on Thursday morning to allow ordnance disposal experts to work on the unexploded device.

‘This cordon is likely to be in place for at least a 36-hour period.

Devon and Cornwall Police said its priority was keeping people safe.

Police worked to evacuate locals with a nearby leisure centre offering support to evacuated families

Police worked to evacuate locals with a nearby leisure centre offering support to evacuated families

Bomb disposal vehicle at the scene of a cordon on Park Side, Plymouth

Bomb disposal vehicle at the scene of a cordon on Park Side, Plymouth

Police understand the undetonated bomb was found several days before they were called on Tuesday

Police understand the undetonated bomb was found several days before they were called on Tuesday

Ch Supt Matt Longman said the force was ‘trying to work through how we’re going to deal with this’.

He said: ‘The first thing to appreciate is just how much impact this has had on the people of Plymouth, particularly in this area.

‘There’s a huge amount of gratitude from us for the patience people have shown, just working with us.

‘Right now I just think I want the public to know we’ve got all the right people here it takes time to get the expertise needed to deal with a situation like this.’

Police understand the undetonated bomb was found several days before they were called on Tuesday.

Ch Supt Matt Longman said the people in the home had known about it but ‘the agencies that are dealing with it here only knew about it on Tuesday morning’.

Two residents have said they will be staying in a hotel until they are allowed back home.



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