A 2,000-pound unexploded US wartime bomb was unearthed on a Happy Valley construction site yesterday, sparking the evacuation of more than 2,000 people from nearby hotels, offices and flats.
Early this morning a police bomb disposal team was working to dismantle the device - an AN-M66, which contained 450kg of explosives. The bomb was the biggest of its kind dropped on Hong Kong by US bombers during the Japanese occupation of the city in the second world war.
Watch: An unexploded US bomb at a Happy Valley construction site
Moving the bomb from the construction site was not an option due to the risk of triggering a huge explosion.
Police and fire officers were called to the site in Hau Tak Lane, near the racecourse, when a worker discovered the bomb during excavation work at about 3.45pm. An area within a 200-metre radius was cleared.
A senior bomb disposal officer, Jimmy Yuen Hon-Wing, of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau, said a US bomber flying out of Guangzhou had carried the bomb and that it must have landed on soft ground and failed to detonate.
"We dare not risk moving the bomb. It could cause severe damage within a radius of 10 metres, and buildings might collapse instantly. We also did not want to carry out a controlled explosion for safety reasons," Yuen said.
Jackie Akhavan, professor of explosive chemistry at Cranfield University in Britain, said: "It would cause a huge amount of drama. It will cause fragments and a very large blast wave."
Most of the evacuated were from the Cosmo Hotel and Cosmopolitan Hotel on Queen's Road East next to the construction site for a new hotel, the Xinhua News Agency Building, Grand View Mansion, a Sikh temple and the AIA Building on Stubbs Road.
Tourist Anil Yildirim, who was staying at Cosmopolitan Hotel, was among the hundreds of evacuees.
"At first I was afraid. I thought 'it's a bomb', so we rushed upstairs for our bags. Now we're waiting for them to fix the problem," the 24-year-old visitor from Turkey said.
Additional reporting by Suzanne Sataline and Danny Lee