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The Dutch steam trawler Voorbode was a fishing vessel, until it was confiscated by the Germans during World War II and used for military transport. In April 1944, it was on its way from Oslo to Kirkenes when it faced mechanical problems, forcing it to seek repair in Bergen. Due to lack of control, the ship was allowed entrance to Bergen harbour loaded with 124,000 kg (273,000 lb) of explosives, even though the ship did not satisfy security regulations and should not have been allowed into major cities with this cargo.
On April 20 at 8:39, the ship exploded at the quay in the center of Bergen. The force of the explosion caused a water column that was hundreds of metres high, spreading heavy debris. Several ships were thrown on land and Voorbode's anchor was later found on the 417 m (1,368 ft) high mountain Sandviksfjellet. The air pressure from the explosion and the tidal wave that followed flattened whole neighbourhoods near the harbour; then fires broke out and further destroyed the wooden houses, leaving 5,000 people homeless; 160 people were killed and 5,000 wounded, mostly civilians.
The Germans initially tried to conceal the extent of the catastrophe, probably because it exposed their failure to maintain security regulations. Because the explosion occurred on Adolf Hitler's birthday, there was some suspicion of sabotage, but investigations revealed that the explosion was an accident caused by self-ignition. Rescue efforts after the event were extensive and have been well documented.
- "20. april 1944". Bergen City Archive (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 2007-09-30.
- "The Explosion". Universitetet i Bergen. Archived from the original on 2011-08-11.
- "D/S Rogaland". Warsailors.