London airport closed after discovery of unexploded Second World War bomb

London airport closed after discovery of unexploded Second World War bomb

Over 16,000 passengers hoping to fly in or out of London City airport today have had their flights cancelled. While I'm sure many are frustrated or angered by this news of disruption to their travels, there's a very good reason behind it. After all, no one wants a 70-year-old bomb to go off in the nation's capital.

The airport adjoins George V Dock, where an unexploded World War Two era bomb was found as works were done to expand into the area, as part of the airport's £480 million expansion programme. The device remains underwater and is likely to be removed later tonight, with the aim to reopen the airport on Tuesday. Until then, authorities have had to cancel hundreds of flights.

“Specialist officers and the Royal Navy have attended and confirmed the nature of the device,” The Metropolitan Police said. "While we endeavour to progress the operation as quickly as possible and minimise disruption, it is important that all of the necessary steps and precautions are taken to ensure it is dealt with safely".

A 214-meter exclusion zone has been created to "ensure that the ordnance can be safely dealt with whilst limiting any risk to the public" at 10pm on Sunday. When the work starts to remove it, the zone will be extended to 250 meters.

Residents close by were evacuated and roads closed, while a Royal Navy bomb-disposal team are working to ensure the bomb is safe. The bomb itself has been described by specialist officers as a "german 500kg fused device".

London City Airport chief executive, Robert Sinclair, said:

"The airport remains closed this morning following the discovery of a World War Two ordnance in King George V Dock on Sunday.

"All flights in and out of London City on Monday are cancelled and an exclusion zone is in place in the immediate area.

"I urge any passengers due to fly today not to come to the airport and to contact their airline for further information.

"I recognise this is causing inconvenience for our passengers, and in particular some of our local residents. 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.”

It is likely that airlines operating at London City Airport could have lost up to £1 million due to these closures.

“We are awaiting more information from the authorities and are keeping the situation under review,” British Airways said, while the airport itself explained that "All flights today are cancelled but some airlines have moved their flights to other airports - CityJet to Southend and Alitalia to Stansted".

There have been some flights that were still in the air when this news came in and so had to be diverted, such as an overnight flight from New York's JFK airport that instead landed in Gatwick. Full refunds have been offered for passengers who were diverted.