Elbe River swells to record levels

Floodwaters on the Elbe River surpassed record highs over the weekend in northern Germany. Minimal damage has occurred despite rising water levels, as crews continued to help man dykes and water pumps along the river.

Elbe River swells to record levels
The Elbe in Lauenburg on Saturday, Jan. 22. Photo: DPA

On Sunday, the mayor of Lauenburg in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Harald Heuer, said the Elbe reached 9.20 metres on Saturday night – eight centimetres higher than the record set in 2006, when towns along the Elbe saw major flooding.

Heuer said aid crews were still on duty. “We still have to get through today, then the water level should fall again,” he said.

The ground floors of 14 residences in Lauenburg’s old town were flooded. The mayor said teams were continuing to pump water out of the neighborhood.

The Elbe has continued to rise, after heavy rain and thawing temperatures melted large quantities of snow accumulated during frequent December storms.

Workers in Lauenburg expected the river would rise a few centimetres more, but that the situation will remain manageable. The fire department dispatched a team of 50 to monitor the river overnight, with 160 firefighters on duty during the day, chief officer Thomas Burmester said.

The crews have been pumping water out of local streets and homes and filling sandbags to protect areas at high risk of flooding.

In Dömitz in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, water levels reached 6.72 metres in the early hours of Sunday, according to a spokesman for the Ludwigslust district. The figure is eight centimetres higher than the previous record set in 2006 – but the waters have slowly started to recede.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s state premier Erwin Sellering was planning to get an overview of the situation in Dömitz on Sunday afternoon.

The Elbe also surpassed record levels in Lower Saxony, but the dykes there were still holding, according to Ulrich Mentz of the Lüneburg district. In Bleckede, the river had risen to 11.46 metres on Sunday morning, exceeding 2006 levels by eight centimetres.

The Alt Garge district of Bleckede is particularly at risk, as temporary dykes and sandbags are the only thing protecting buildings and property.

Lower Saxony’s Water Management, Coastal Defence and Nature Conservation Agency (NLWKN) expected the floodwaters to fall very slowly, with a significant drop not expected until Thursday. It will reportedly take weeks for the Elbe to return to normal levels.


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