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WWII-Era U.S. Bomb Explodes in Austria

July 17, 2003

SALZBURG, Austria (AP) _ A World War II-era U.S. bomb exploded Thursday as it was being lifted out of the ground to be defused, killing two of the deminers and seriously injuring a third, police said.

The 550-pound aircraft bomb exploded on the grounds of Salzburg’s train station, Salzburg police chief Gottfried Mayr told state television.

Salzburg’s railway lines and train station were major targets of Allied bombing during World War II, and many bombs from that period remain in the area.

The explosion blasted a crater 20 feet deep and damaged surrounding vehicles and buildings.

It was the most tragic accident of its kind since 1946, said Interior Minister Ernst Strasser. Each year, his ministry disposes of about 50 bombs or mines from the two World Wars.

A bomb disposal expert from Germany, Joachim Wittig, had warned that ground water entering the pit around the bomb made the operation especially dangerous.

He also said the bomb was especially dangerous because it was equipped with a chemical fuse.

Up to 300 people living near the site of the operation had been evacuated beforehand.

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