Image: Evacuation during an operation to dispose of a WWII bomb in Thessaloniki

Greek Army bomb disposal technicians work as they prepare for an excavation of an unexploded World War II bomb which found buried five meters under the ground, at a gas station in Kordelio district of Thessaloniki, northern Greece, 12 February 2017. NIKOS ARVANITIDIS / EPA

Calling the operation “a total success,” he said it was the largest peacetime population evacuation in Greece and estimated it involved 70,000 people.

Many people left the area in their cars, but some were bused to schools and sports halls elsewhere in the city.

“We heard on TV that, if the bomb explodes, it will be like a strong earthquake,” Michalis Papanos, 71, told The Associated Press as he and his wife, Yiannoula, headed out of their home.

Alexander Bogdani and his wife, Anna Bokonozi, left on foot, pushing a stroller with their toddler daughter.

“We are afraid for the child,” Bogdani said.

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The city’s main bus station was shut down, trains in the area were halted and churches canceled Sunday services. The city also booked a 175-room hotel where people with limited mobility were taken on Saturday.

Among the evacuees were 450 refugees staying at a former factory who were bused to visit the city’s archaeological museum.

One resident recalled the day the bomb fell.

“The bombing was done by English and American planes on Sept. 17, 1944. It was Sunday lunchtime,” said Giorgos Gerasimou, 86, whose home is half a mile away from the bomb site.

He said the Allies were targeting local German rail facilities. He remembers the day clearly because one of his 10-year-old friends was killed in the bombing.

Nazi Germany occupied Greece from 1941 until October 1944.