WARSAW, Poland -- Polish authorities have blocked off a wooded area near a railroad track after scores of treasure hunters swarmed southwest Poland looking for an alleged Nazi gold train.
The city of Walbrzych and its surrounding wooded hills are experiencing a gold rush after two men, a Pole and a German, informed the authorities through their lawyers that they have found a Nazi train with armaments and valuables that reportedly went missing in the spring of 1945. Inspired by a local legend since World War II, people with metal detectors are combing the area and its still-used railway tracks.
The alleged site is somewhere between the 61th and the 65th kilometer of the tracks that wind their way from Walbrzych to Wroclaw.
Provincial governor Tomasz Smolarz said Monday that police, city and railway guards are now patrolling the area and blocking treasure hunters to prevent any accidents with trains running on the tracks.
"A few hectares (acres) of land are now being secured. People have been barred from the woods" surrounding the site, he said.
"Half of Walbrzych's residents and other people are going treasure hunting or just for walks to see the site. We are worried for their security," police spokeswoman Magdalena Koroscik told The Associated Press. People walking down the tracks can't escape "a train that emerges from behind the rocks at 70 kph (43 mph)."
A man taking a selfie on the tracks reportedly narrowly missed being hit, she said.
Smolarz is also asking the military to examine the site with earth-penetrating equipment to look for any hidden train.
Authorities said numerous previous reports of a find have only yielded rusty pieces of metal.
Last week, Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski released a statement urging treasure hunters to stop foraging in the area.
"I am appealing to people to stop any such searches until the end of official procedures leading to the securing of the find. Inside the hidden train - of whose existence I am convinced - there could be dangerous materials from the time of World War II," Zuchowski said. "There is a great chance that the train is mined."
Local lore says a German train filled with gold, gems and armaments went missing around the city of Walbrzych while it was fleeing the Red Army in the spring of 1945. Fortune-hunters have looked for the so-called "gold train" for decades, and in the communist era, the Polish army and security services carried out apparently fruitless searches for it.
A person who claimed he helped load the gold train in 1945 said in a "deathbed statement" the train is secured with explosives, Zuchowski said. The person, who was not identified, had also indicated the probable location of the train, he said.