AN American ‘sayonara’ to the Japanese over 70 years ago turned up at the end of January to give thousands of Hong Kong workers in Wan Chai (灣仔) an early break.
Two AN-M65 World War II bombs, each containing 450 kilograms of explosives inside, were discovered on 27 and 31 January at a construction site, just 10 metres away from each other. The second bomb caused yet another larger evacuation only days after the first was defused on 28 January, until its own deactivation on 1 February.
Police bomb-disposal officer Alick McWhirter (馬偉德) spoke of the second explosive at the time: “We’ve examined the bomb, and found the devices or the bomb is similar to the type found on the weekend. But there are some additional challenges.
“The bomb is in dangerous condition, the fuse mechanism is severely damaged, and the position of the bomb is making it difficult for our equipment to gain optimum access.”
Unlike the first bomb, this one was embedded in a slope. It was 30 to 35 metres under the ground.
He also said the rainy weather had not helped as it was in unstable ground. The rain would make the bomb difficult to secure in position and stabilise.
Office workers had an unexpected half-day off when their offices were evacuated. Ferries were cancelled and school sports competitions cut short.
Thousands of workers, merchants and residents near Wan Chai North had to move out on 31 January. By 8.40pm more than 4,600 people had gone.
Star Ferry (天星小輪) services from Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀) were suspended from 3.15pm.
People at work in towers such as the Great Eagle Centre (鷹君中心), Harbour Centre (海港中心) and Sun Hung Kai Centre (新鴻基中心) had to leave after lunch.
A woman who works in Sun Hung Kai Centre said there were announcements to tell workers in the building that they had to evacuate before 2pm. She said staff were not worried, but were excited about getting off work early.
By 8.40pm, more than 4,630 people in the area had been moved out. Sport facilities nearby – such as Harbour Road Sports Centre (港灣道體育館), Wan Chai Swimming Pool (灣仔游泳池) and Wan Chai Sports Ground (灣仔運動場) – were closed.
Residents of Causeway Centre (灣景中心) and Apartment Kapok (木棉花酒店), and visitors staying in Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel (香港萬麗海景酒店), were also affected. All rooms facing the waterfront were closed.
McWhirter said thousands of explosives had been found over the years in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong construction workers are trained on the dangers it takes and a good deal of precautions when they carry out the expansion works,” he said
(This article is published on Student Standard on 09 February 2018)