THE two workmen who found what was thought to be a bomb in Newport yesterday told how they dug around the object 'for half an hour'.

The pair were installing bollards outside Pets at Home in Maesglas Retail Park when they came across the device while they digging four feet below ground level at around 12.45pm.

Andrew Tolley, from Newport said: “We thought it was a gas canister but the more we dug around it we could see it wasn’t a gas cylinder. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

His colleague, Tom Jenkins from Cwmbran, said: “We were digging around it for half hour. We only got the end out.”

Their safety officer called the police and the area was quickly evacuated.

Inspector Chris Hocking-Brown from Gwent Police, described the device as metal, reddish in colour, with straps, cylindrical and about 18 inches in diameter.

The Explosives Ordnance Division (EOD) who arrived at around 6pm said they believed the item found was a Second World War bomb, but this was later revised at around 9pm when they said they thought the object was an 'old Victorian pressure vessel'.

Claire Rumsey, sales assistant at Tile and Bath Co, said she, her manager and some customers were evacuated from the shop at around 1.30pm after the device was unearthed.

Staff from Next, Argos, Dreams, TK Maxx, Lidl, B&M and Home Bargains were all evacuated and cars were moved off the car park as part of a 500-metre cordon around Pets at Home.

“They mentioned the word bomb and you see 12 stores being evacuated... It was scary,” she said.

Staff were left sitting on the roadside for hours waiting for news.

A vet from Pets at Home was escorted into the store with police to check on the animals. She said they were made safe and given food and water. She said: “There’s no concern there.”

At 4.30pm stranded workers were told they weren’t going to be able to get on site at all that evening and they should make their way home. Many had to leave without their cars, house keys, phones or money, which were all in the cordon.

St Michael’s Primary School, with around 190 pupils, was evacuated as a precaution and pupils were taken to Pill Millennium Centre to be collected by their parents/guardians.

Nine properties on Mendalgief Road were evacuated and residents were advised to avoid the area if possible as the cordon resulted in a number of road closures which created significant congestion.