London City Airport, an important hub for business travelers, cancelled all flights on Monday after the discovery nearby of an unexploded World War II bomb.
The ordnance was found in the River Thames during planned development work at the airport, east of the Canary Wharf financial district. Royal Navy specialists established an exclusion zone of more than 200 meters (650 feet) to handle the situation, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
Though the airport carries just a fraction of the annual traffic that moves through London Heathrow, it’s favoured by business travelers for its short boarding times, quick takeoffs and proximity to London’s financial center. About 4.5 million passengers travelled through London City Airport last year, compared to 78 million at the Heathrow hub.
“The airport is cooperating fully with the Met Police and Royal Navy and working hard to safely remove the device and resolve the situation as quickly as possible,” Robert Sinclair, London City’s chief executive officer, said in a tweet. It advised passengers due to travel on Monday not to leave home and instead contact their airline for further information.
More than 20,000 tons of explosives fell on the UK capital during the German Blitz, killing 40,000 people. At least 20 percent of the bombs dropped in a total of 85 raids are thought not to have detonated. More unexploded devices have been discovered in recent years as intensive building works on projects such as Crossrail disturb ground untouched since the conflict ended 75 years ago.
The East End, where London City is located, was a major target for Luftwaffe bombers seeking to put the city’s dock network out of action. The airport itself is built between former harbor basins.
Defusing WWII bombs is a fairly routine procedure across Europe, though can throw entire districts into disarray.