Hong Kong explosives experts take nine hours to defuse wartime bomb

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 12:19pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 February, 2014, 3:38am

When it comes to defusing a situation, Jimmy Yuen Hon-wing is definitely your man. He proved it this week when he tackled one of the biggest jobs of his 22 years as a bomb disposal officer.

On Thursday when 55-year-old police Senior Superintendent Yuen was told that construction workers in Happy Valley had unearthed a 2,000-pound US wartime bomb, he knew he was in for a long shift.

The scene confronting him was potentially catastrophic - a huge and unstable device packed with 450kg of high explosives surrounded by high-rise hotels, offices and residential blocks in one of the city's busiest districts.

It couldn't be moved and - due to its size - a controlled explosion was out of the question.

What followed for Yuen and his team were nine nervy hours, with the unthinkable just one slip-up away.

At 10pm on Thursday, with the scene near Happy Valley racecourse bathed in floodlight and with blowtorches in hand, 30-year police veteran Yuen and his team set about cutting two identical-sized holes in the casing of the US second world war bomb so they could reach inside and defuse it.

Special measures were taken to ensure the temperature of the cutting gear was kept below 400 degrees Celsius and a job they thought might take just a couple of hours stretched into the small hours of yesterday morning.

This was largely due to the fact that they were dealing with the biggest and most destructive type of bomb the US dropped during the Japanese occupation of the city during the war.

"The explosives inside were very sensitive, so we needed to keep the temperature [of the cutting equipment] down when we cut open the shell," said Yuen.

At 7am yesterday - nine hours after they started - Yuen and his team could breathe easy. The beast of a bomb was safe. Understated Yuen - who was last year awarded the Hong Kong Police Medal for Meritorious Service - said it was "fortunate" the bomb had not gone off, as it could have brought down nearby buildings, including the Cosmopolitan and Cosmo hotels and a Sikh temple.

The shell will be cleaned and no doubt put into storage.

Meanwhile, the hundreds of hotel guests evacuated as a result received an unexpected five-star treat while Yuen and his team diced with death.

They were moved to hotels - among them The Peninsula - which under normal circumstances would have cost them … a bomb.