business

London City Airport Reopens Following Removal of WWII Bomb

  • Flights restored as Royal Navy divers tackle submerged device
  • Shutdown halted flights at carriers including British Airways
Aircraft sit grounded at London City Airport on Feb. 12. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

London City Airport was declared open Tuesday, restoring flights at the hub that serves the U.K. capital’s main financial districts, following the removal of an unexploded World War II bomb discovered during a construction project.

Services were grounded all day Monday after the device was found submerged in the River Thames early Sunday during planned development work at the airport. The Metropolitan Police established an exclusion zone of more than 200 meters (650 feet) while Royal Navy divers worked to remove the bomb.

“The World War II ordnance discovered in King George V Dock has been safely removed by the Royal Navy and Met Police,” Robert Sinclair, London City’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “As a result, the exclusion zone has now been lifted and the airport will be open as normal.”

The device weighed 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds), the Ministry of Defence said on Twitter, adding that bomb-disposal teams typically remove around 60 air-dropped bombs a year.

Video message from London City Airport CEO Robert Sinclair

Though London City attracted only about 4.5 million passengers last year, versus 78 million at the capital’s main Heathrow hub, it’s favored by business travelers for its short boarding times, quick takeoffs and proximity to both Canary Wharf and the traditional financial center.

British Airways and CityJet said they expected services to operate as normal following the reopening. BA carries more than half of the airport’s total passengers, though the disruption Monday accounted for just 0.2 percent of its monthly traffic, Goodbody Stockbrokers said in a note.

A Royal Navy bomb disposal team on the River Thames on Feb. 12.

Photographer: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe

More than 20,000 tons of explosives fell on London during the German Blitz, killing 40,000 people. At least 20 percent of the bombs dropped in a total of 85 raids are thought not to have detonated. More unexploded devices have been discovered in recent years as intensive building works on projects such as Crossrail disturb ground untouched since the conflict ended 75 years ago.

The East End, where London City is located, was a major target for Luftwaffe bombers seeking to put the dock network out of action. The airport itself is built between former harbor basins.

Defusing WWII bombs is a fairly routine procedure across Europe, though can throw entire districts into disarray. The discovery of ordnance containing 1.4 tons of explosives in Frankfurt last year during building work forced the evacuation of 65,000 people. The previous week, 21,000 had to leave their homes in Koblenz on the Rhine river while a half-ton bomb was defused.

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