Emergency services worked well together after workers at Nissan uncovered a cache of unexploded firebombs at the plant, say fire brigade bosses.
An RAF bomb disposal squad was called to the Sunderland plant yesterday men after contractors working on the new paint shop stumbled across an unknown yellow substance.
It was identified as coming from Second World War self-igniting phosphorous grenades, incendiary devices containing phosphorus and kerosene.
The devices were placed into a skip containing around 75 kilos of sharp sand, before a controlled detonation was carried out.
Five fire crews and six specialist hazardous materials and decontamination crews attended the incident from the fire brigade and crews maintained a 20 metre cordon around the incident as the Royal Logistic Corp carried out further searches, finding a total of 49 devices.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority chairman Tom Wright said: “Promoting public safety is our first concern, and we work closely with all our partners to bring together the right expertise to ensure all incidents are responded to in the quickest and most effective way.
“It is a credit to everyone involved that the situation was controlled in an efficient and safe manner.”
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, added: “Close working with our partner agencies ensured this was managed in a controlled, safe and efficient way. The grenades were harmlessly disposed of without further incident.”
Nissan bosses paid tribute to staff and contractors for keeping a cool head.
“At around 3pm on Thursday, a number of canisters were uncovered during the excavation work for the new paint facility at our Sunderland plant,” said a spokeswoman.
“Emergency services were notified and the site was cordoned off to ensure the safety of staff and building contractors.
“The canisters were identified as Self-Igniting Phosphorous incendiary devices dating from the 1940s. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians carried out a controlled explosion shortly after 9pm.
“Nobody was injured. A contractor who discovered the canisters was taken to hospital purely as a precautionary measure.
“We are grateful for the professionalism of our employees, contractors and the emergency services who supported a safe resolution to this incident.”
Nissan’s Sunderland plant is built on the site of the former RAF Usworth airfield, which was home to the Hurricanes of 607 Squadron during the early 1940s.