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Hong Kong's second world war history

Hong Kong police rely on past experience to deal with third unexploded second world war bomb to be found at Wan Chai construction site

Bomb disposal officers take 20 hours to defuse device despite finding themselves in ‘unique’ situation 

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 1:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 11:29pm

Police said they were able to defuse a wartime bomb on Friday several hours quicker than two previous devices because of the experience gained during those earlier incidents – even though this one was unique.

The shell was buried vertically at the site of the Sha Tin-Central rail link near Wan Chai Swimming Pool, while the two found in January were lying flat.

Having evacuated 1,250 residents and businesses, bomb disposal experts finished an overnight operation that lasted about 20 hours, defusing the 450kg ordnance by noon.

Nestor Lai Ngo-yan, a bomb disposal officer, called the operation “unique” because of the shell’s positioning. Two-thirds of it was buried beneath mud that had hardened over the decades.

“It took us a long time to clean the mud outside the shell because the bomb was not stable,” he said.

Senior bomb disposal officer Tony Chow Shek-kin said earlier it was upside down with its front part buried in the ground and the detonator already broken.

But the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau wrapped up the job in about 20 hours, four to six hours faster than previously, because, Lai said, “police are more experienced with defusing such devices”.

Superintendent Kwok Mei Sum, commander of Wan Chai A Division, described the operation as “fast and safe”.

Hung Hing Road, where the bomb was found, reopened two hours later and work resumed.

The American-made AN-M65 bomb, 145cm long and about 45cm in diameter, was unearthed by construction workers at 4.30pm on Thursday. It was the third device found at the site this year, after police defused two 450kg bombs in January.

All three were likely to have been dropped by US Navy planes between 1941 and 1945, when the city was under Japanese occupation.

Dave Macri, a history professor at the University of Hong Kong, told the Post earlier this year that, “the Americans were primarily concerned with destroying the Japanese shipping and supporting docking facilities”.

Amateur historian Ian Quinn estimated that American forces dropped about 4,000 bombs on the city during the war, and about 30 per cent did not detonate.

Roads that were closed, and ferry services that had been suspended overnight, were fully reopened yesterday afternoon.

The closures since Thursday had not only affected businesses in the area but also tourists.

A woman, surnamed Zhang, and her family from the mainland were waiting anxiously yesterday to enter a building in the affected zone to pick up documents from a travel agency.

Zhang, who desperately needed the papers because it was the last day of her tourist visa, said: “Our flight tickets are booked. But I don’t know if I can leave Hong Kong today.”

An employer whose office was in the area along Fleming Road was told by police to come back in the afternoon. “I don’t know why they shut down the building. It’s not that close,” he said.