Hundreds evacuated from homes tonight

MORE than a thousand residents are tonight being told to evacuate their homes after a huge war-time bomb was washed up on the beach at Felixstowe.

Danielle Nuttall

MORE than 1,000 residents have been evacuated from their seaside homes tonight after a huge war-time bomb was washed up on the beach at Felixstowe.

Experts from the Royal Navy's Bomb Disposal Unit said the 500kg Second World War bomb - thought to be one of the largest ever to be washed up on Britain's coastline - had the potential to “flatten” a huge area of Felixstowe's seafront if it exploded - and cause collateral damage up to half a mile inland.

Up to 1,200 people living in the area have been evacuated from their homes by police and told to seek shelter with friends and family.

A temporary evacuation centre has been set up at the town's Brackenbury Sports Centre, in High Road East, offering overnight shelter and food for those who had nowhere to go.

The huge German shell was swept on to the beach by wind-lashed waves over the weekend - and was spotted by a workman who accidentally scooped it into his digger bucket.

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Police set up a half-mile exclusion zone along the seaside of Langer Road, between Under Cliff Road West and Manor Road.

The Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Squad arrived at the scene at 5.30pm this evening to identify the bomb once the tide had gone out.

It turned out to be much larger than first thought and police were immediately advised to evacuate homes surrounding the area for safety reasons.

The five-strong bomb disposal team have secured the shell so that it would not be washed back out to sea by the next high tide.

They are set to return at first light tomorrow to attach the bomb to inflatable towing equipment and it will then be taken out to sea at high tide at about 2pm to be detonated.

Speaking at the scene tonight, Petty Officer Diver Dave Moore said: “We have positively identified it as a 500kg German bomb from the Second World War.

“It's much larger than we thought. It would flatten quite a significant amount of the seafront and cause collateral damage further in up to about half a mile. It's quite rare to physically find something on a beach like that but we do often find them on the back of fishing boats.

“We have secured it so that the next high tide will not wash it away. We'll be back down at first light.

“We will attach it to lifting and towing equipment to tow it off the beach when the tide comes in. We'll tow it out in the direction the coastguards give us approximately a mile offshore and detonate it.

“I'm hoping to get it off the beach at the latest at 2pm. Once half a mile off the beach, people may be able to return home.”

P/O Moore said his team would probably be about 400-500 metres away from the bomb when it was detonated.

He said the noise of the explosion would be heard throughout the town.

Hundreds of police, paramedics and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) gathered at a muster point in Garrison Lane shortly before the evacuation process began.

Officers and PCSOs then called at all addresses inside the cordon to advise and assist those who had not already made arrangements for self-evacuation.

Paramedics and ambulances were on standby to evacuate any vulnerable residents such as the elderly and medical teams were on-hand in the evacuation centre to help anyone in need.

Superintendent Ian Sibney said: “There are about 1,200 people living in the area affected.

“We have no power to force people out of their homes if they choose to stay. But it's under the advice of the bomb disposal unit that they comply with guidance.

“We do not do these things lightly.”

Suffolk police said residents would not be able to return to their homes until at least the morning - and possibly longer.

Langer Primary School in Langer Road was closed at lunchtime today and parents asked to collect their children.

Roadblocks set up at the Ordnance roundabout, Sea Road and Dock Gate One caused traffic delays, with only people with exceptional reasons let through.

The bomb, which is believed to be about 40metres from the prom, was discovered by contractors working on the £10million sea defence works in the area.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said an initial assessment of the bomb was made this morning from a photograph.

This gave them a relatively positive indication they were dealing with a live bomb, he said.

Work on the sea defences has been halted until the bomb disposal team give the all clear.

A public information line has been set up for members of the public to contact police for evacuation news. The number is 01473 613600.