Thunderstorms spark blazes across North Sea island of Sylt

A stormy night sparked fires across Sylt overnight, forcing all nine of the North Sea island's fire brigades into action, a spokesperson said on Monday.

Thunderstorms spark blazes across North Sea island of Sylt
Photo: DPA

By midnight all 400 fire fighters on the island were busy fighting blazes and the fire department headquarters in Harrislee had called a state of emergency.

“The island is burning, one could say,” a police spokesman at the central station in Westerland said.

Authorities believe most of the fires began with lightning strikes during violent thunderstorms in the region, but said they may also be investigating for arson.

The worst blaze occurred a school recreation centre in the northern town of Klappholttal after a kitchen fire apparently spread to a neighbouring building. Both structures burned to the ground, and fire fighters planned to raze the smouldering remains into piles to control the final flames in the morning, they said.

Meanwhile a lightning bolt set a hotel in Wenningstedt ablaze, forcing rescue workers to evacuate some 200 guests. A hallway in the main building was damaged.

Two buildings in a nature preserve area also reportedly caught fire.

In Westerland another lightning strike set off a fire alarm, but there was only minor damage.

A series of burning trash dumpsters in Westerland also kept fire fighters busy. For unknown reasons three trash receptacles caught fire outside apartment buildings, and police are now investigating on suspicion of arson.

Sylt was hit particularly hard by heavy thunderstorms across northern Germany overnight that kept flood watch officials on alert as water gauge levels increased following floods in eastern Germany last week.

Click here for The Local’s weather forecast.

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What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

Parts of Germany will see another heatwave this week as temperatures soar.

What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

The German Weather Service (DWD) has predicted that the mercury will climb in some regions of to around 34C this week. 

“After low pressure ‘Karin’ gave parts of Germany rain, sometimes in large quantities, high pressure ‘Piet’ is now back in pole position,” said meteorologist Lars Kirchhübel of the DWD.

This high pressure zone will dominate the weather in large parts of western and central Europe over the coming days, the weather expert said, adding that it will reach Germany too. 

On Monday temperatures remained fairly cool across the country after a weekend of showers, but they are set to climb over the course of the week, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday. Forecasters predict it could reach 32C in Stuttgart and 33C in Cologne on Thursday. Locally, temperatures could reach 34C. 

However, from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the Erzgebirge mountains and southeast Bavaria, denser clouds and some showers are to be expected. This is due to a high-level low pressure system over the Balkan region, according to forecasters. Short showers are also possible in the Black Forest.

“In most of the rest of the country, high ‘Piet’ will be able to hold its ground,” said Kirchhübel.

READ ALSO: Heavy rain in Bavaria swells rivers, but flooding avoided

At the end of the week, thunderstorms are forecast but temperatures are expected to remain high. 

August in Germany ‘too dry’

According to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, August as a whole – apart from a few areas in eastern Germany – will be too dry compared to the multi-year average.

The Black Forest, the High Rhine and the Allgäu to the Bavarian Forest, however, are not expected to have any major problems due to the high rainfall of the past few days.

“Looking at Rhineland-Palatinate, the southern half of Hesse, the western half of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Franconia shows a different picture,” said Kirchhübel. In the last 30 days, only about 10 percent of the usual level of precipitation fell in some places.

“At some stations, no precipitation at all has been measured in August,” added Kirchhübel, referencing Würzburg as an example.

Rainfall at the weekend caused the water in the Rhine river to rise slightly. In Emmerich, the water level reached a positive value again after the historic low of the past few days: in the morning, it showed three centimetres – an increase of six centimetres compared to the previous day.

The water level also rose by several centimetres at the other measuring points in North Rhine-Westphalia: in Cologne, the level rose to 80cm and in Düsseldorf to 38cm.

READ ALSO: Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

Despite this encouraging trend, the Waterways and Shipping Authority said it did not expect a huge improvement in water levels in the foreseeable future due to more hot weather coming.