Rhine River Traffic Interrupted for Bomb Disposal at Cologne

Image courtesy City of Cologne

Published Jan 21, 2020 8:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

Vessel traffic on the Rhine was briefly delayed at Cologne on Tuesday after construction workers found a WWII-era bomb nearby. 

The 1,100 pound American-made bomb was found Monday near the bank of the Rhine in the Deutz business district, near Cologne's Hohenzollern Bridge. The city's response included the closure of the bridge and the Deutz rail station, which is a key transfer hub for Germany's rail network; this led to disruption and the delay or cancellation of about 120 trains. 

On Tuesday morning, about 10,000 office workers were evacuated from a 500-meter exclusion zone around the site. The evacuation affected the media group RTL and the Cologne Opera, among other organizations. 

Water traffic on the Rhine was also halted, and water police patrol boats enforced a cordon zone on either side of the bridge. 

When all preparations were complete, an EOD squad defused the bomb in about 25 minutes. "The bomb was dropped from more than 1,000 meters, and if the detonator had been even slightly compressed, then we would have had problems removing it," squad member Stefan Höreth told RTL. 

Allied forces dropped about 1.4 million tons of bombs over Germany over the course of WWII, including about 35,000 tons of munitions dropped on Cologne. Roughly one bomb out of every 10 failed to go off; today, more than seven decades after the war's end, German bomb-disposal squads still deal with about 2,000 tonnes of unexploded munitions annually