Berlin police evacuated thousands of people from a central area of the German capital and shut down the main train station as a precaution while they defused an unexploded Second World War bomb found during construction work.

Some 10,000 residents and workers were forced to leave a square-mile area, including the train station, while bomb experts removed the 500-kilogram (1,100lb) British bomb dropped during the war.

Trains were prevented from stopping at the busy station from 10am (9am BST) and through traffic was shut down at 11.30am (10.30am BST) before experts began their work, German rail operator Deutsche Bahn said. Some 300,000 travellers use the station every day.

Bomb disposal experts were able to successfully remove the detonator just after 1pm (12pm BST) and destroy it in a small controlled explosion.

Berlin police are evacuating thousands from a central area of the German capital (AP)Berlin police are evacuating thousands from a central area of the German capital (AP)

The evacuation area, which centred on the construction site north of the train station where the bomb was discovered during digging, also included a hospital, the new offices of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, and parts of both the economy and transportation ministries.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office and Germany’s parliament building are close by, but outside the zone.

Even 73 years after the end of the war, such discoveries remain common in major German cities.

Central Berlin was largely reduced to rubble in hundreds of Allied bombing raids during the war and street-to-street fighting between the Nazi and Soviet armies in the final days of the conflict.

Experts estimate that more than 5% of the bombs dropped on Berlin failed to explode due to a variety of reasons, including faulty fuses, poor assembly and bad angle of impact. The city estimates at least 3,000 bombs, grenades and other munitions are still buried.

They are found frequently enough that they are treated more as a nuisance than a major public safety issue, and authorities are well trained and experienced with their removal and destruction.

The evacuated main train station in Berlin, Germany (AP)The evacuated main train station in Berlin, Germany (AP)

In one of the more sensational finds, a 250-kilogram (550lb) British bomb was found in 2002 beneath the lower ring of seats during renovation work at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, where tens of thousands of fans regularly watch the city’s Hertha BSC football club play their home games.

Such finds are also common elsewhere in Europe, and Slovak authorities on Friday had to evacuate people in a town near the southern border with Hungary after four unexploded Second World War bombs were found by a man walking his dog.

Police said the 100-kilogram (220lb) Soviet bombs were found in a field in the town of Sturovo.