Berlin firefighters work to tackle flooding after ‘heaviest rain in a century’

Heavy rain has meant that Berlin firefighters battled flooded streets and cellars throughout the night on Thursday and into Friday morning.

Berlin firefighters work to tackle flooding after 'heaviest rain in a century'
A flooded street in Brandenburg on Thursday. Photo:DPA
Fire services were still in action on Friday morning, working hard to pump water out of cellars and away from streets after hours of uninterrupted rain on Thursday. On Friday morning 600 professional firefighters were still deployed. They had been supported by around 550 volunteers on Thursday evening.
The rain started shortly after midday on Thursday and still hadn't stopped by the evening. Much of the inner city had been brought to a standstill late on Thursday, with water levels often reaching up to knee height.
Throughout Thursday and Friday people uploaded eye-watering footage of the flooding to social media. On Friday morning one commuter filmed a man swimming along the street in a central neighbourhood of the capital.
According to tabloid Bild, the rainfall on Thursday was the heaviest seen in the capital for 110 years.

A spokesperson for the Berlin Water Works told Bild that 150 litres of water fell per square metre in the district of western Spandau.

“On average around 580 litres of rain fall every year in Berlin. That means that a quarter of the normal total for the year fell within an 18 hour period,” the spokesperson said.

The state of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin, was also hit hard by the severe weather, with up to half a year's rainfall completely swamping some streets.

Firefighters pump water out of a cellar in the Mitte district of Berlin on Friday. Photo: DPA

But the worst of the chaos seemed to be over on Friday morning.

“It is gradually getting calmer”, said a fire services spokesman.

But the German Weather Service (DWD) has predicted more long-lasting rain for Berlin and Brandenburg on Friday and Saturday, and weather warnings are in place for the north and east regions of Germany for Friday. 

The Autobahn was fully open again on Friday after several nightly closures, according to police. The overground metro lines were all also running according to schedule, after a tree had fallen onto the track in the north of the city, blocking to major commuter routes.

Underground U-Bahn services on the U9 were however still facing interruptions due to flooding in some stations. The U3 was running along the entire route again after a suspension of services on Thursday evening.

No further delays are also expected at at Tegel airport on Friday, after flight delays on Thursday.

The capital's transport network took a beating in the storms on Thursday. The Autobahn in the south of the city was blocked off at the Alboinstraße exit in Tempelhof, leading to a huge tailback of traffic. The A100, one of the busiest roads in Germany, was also shut down in the west of the city near the Funkturm.

A house in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg had to be evacuated due to the heavy rainfall, but a structural engineer has since given the all-clear and the 18 evacuees were able to return to the building.


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.