Seismologie & Geophysik

Current Earthquakes

what is happening with our earth?


The Explosion

On the morning of 30 December 1998, a bus in the urban area of Göttingen was seriously damaged by an explosion. One passenger sustained severe and two others minor injuries. Directly at the explosion site, a crater of about 4 m width and at least 2 m depth formed, which quickly filled with groundwater. In a radius of about 20 m, the road surface was ripped open, forming cracks of several centimetres in width. Despite the power of the blast, the windows of adjacent buildings were not destroyed. Experts of the police, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit, the public utilities and DEKRA Umwelt GmbH instantly started to search for the cause of the explosion. Two possibilities were discussed in particular: gas or a dud from World War II. Initially, the detonation of a dud was suspected. Drillings down to a depth of up to 7 m revealed bomb splinters spotted with metal-detecting magnetic field probes. However, the recovered bomb splinters were strongly corroded, which is why they could not originate from a recent explosion. The investigations were then focussed on a gas explosion, since a gas pipeline (about 20 cm in diameter) running directly along the site of explosion was found burst after the detonation. After a few weeks, however, investigations by DEKRA Umwelt GmbH and the public utilities revealed that gas could be ruled out as the cause. Above all, the absence of an underground cavity for an explosive mixture (at least 15 m³ given the strength of the explosion) gave rise to doubts about a gas explosion. Another attempt to find bomb splinters by deep drilling was cancelled by the public prosecutors in the last minute for cost reasons. Hence, the cause of the detonation has so far not been clarified conclusively! As a result, nobody can be held liable for the cost of treatment of the passengers and the elimination of property damage as well as the investigations (by now far beyond DM 1 million).

On 21 December 1992, an armour-piercing aerial bomb weighing 450 kg had detonated just a few hundred metres away from the explosion site of the 1998 event. In this detonation at the Schützenplatz in Göttingen, about 110 kg of explosives blew up at a depth of about 7 m. A comparison of the photos from 1992 and 1998 shows craters of similar size.