Floodwaters recede but Brandenburg still on alert

Parts of the eastern German state of Brandenburg remained on alert Tuesday afternoon, with flood waters gradually receding but rain forecast for later in the week.

Floodwaters recede but Brandenburg still on alert
Residents get their feet wet in the town of Gubin. Photo: DPA

Clean-up operations were underway, meanwhile, in the neighbouring state of Saxony, which was severely affected by the flooding at the weekend.

Water levels on the flooded Neiße and Spree rivers in Brandenburg were sinking and evacuations were put on hold.

But warnings were still in place for many parts, including the city of Cottbus, southeast of Berlin. It was critical for Cottbus that the flood waters did not swell, said Matthias Freude, the head of Brandenburg’s state environment office. This remained a “very sensitive issue,” Freude said.

The highest water levels around Cottbus were expected on Tuesday afternoon.

On a brighter note, Freude added: “For the Spree, I think all the major problems have been resolved.”

On the Spremberg dam, which has played a key role in coping with the Spree flood waters, everything was going to plan, with high waters being channelled successfully to the north.

But Brandenburg premier Matthias Platzeck warned: “We must not let the damns fill up because rain has been forecast.”

Floodgates in the reservoir on the Spree were opened Tuesday morning, causing 30 cubic metres of water to drain out every second. This later increased to 70 cubic metres per second. Another reservoir further upstream drained 100 cubic metres per second, Freude said.

The situation around Guben in Brandenburg remained tense. Around midday the water level reached 6.27 metres but peaked there. Streets were flooded and a highway blocked. About 180 people who had been forced to leave their homes in the town of Klein Bademeusel were able to return Tuesday.

To the south of Guben, residents of the town of Grießen had a stroke of luck: the dike broke but the small town was not flooded.

In Saxony, meanwhile, things were returning to comparative normality. The UNESCO heritage-listed Fürst Pückler Park in Bad Muskau, on the Neiße River, was completely flooded, but damage turned out to be limited.

“We’ve had luck,” said the acting head of the Fürst Pückler Park foundation, Cornelia Wenzel.

In the region of Görlitz, the flood warnings had finished and Saxony’s Finance Ministry announced that about €1 million would immediately be made available to fix damaged roads. The first clean-up operations had also begun.

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Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

A stranded cargo ship caused traffic to be halted Wednesday at the Rhine river in western Germany after suffering a technical fault, authorities said, at a time when water transport was already ailing from a drought.

Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

The vessel is stuck at St. Goar and Oberwesel, in between the cities of Mainz and Koblenz, water police said, adding that they were expecting to clear the stricken ship within the day.

The machine damage came as water levels in the Rhine had dropped to critical points at several locations, including at nearby Kaub — a known bottleneck for shipping where the river runs narrow and shallow.

The gauge at Kaub stood at 34 cm (13 inches) on Wednesday, well below the 40-cm reference point.

While vessels are still able to navigate at low water levels, they are forced to reduce their loads to avoid the risk of running aground.

About four percent of freight is transported on waterways in Germany, including on the Rhine, which originates in Switzerland and runs through several countries including France and Germany before flowing into the sea in the Netherlands.

READ ALSO: How the Rhine’s low water levels are impacting Germany

Transport on the Rhine has gained significance in recent months because among cargo moved on the river is coal, now all the more necessary as Germany seeks to wean itself off Russian gas.

Germany’s biggest companies have already warned that major disruptions to river traffic could deal another blow to an economy already beset by logistical difficulties.

The 2018 drought, which saw the benchmark depth of the Rhine in Kaub drop to 25 cm in October, shrank German GDP by 0.2 percent that year, according to Deutsche Bank Research.