Water woes as drought leaves Germany’s Rhine shallow

Months of drought have left water levels on Germany's Rhine river at a record low, exposing a World War II bomb and forcing ship operators to halt services to prevent vessels from running aground.

Water woes as drought leaves Germany's Rhine shallow
Low water levels along the Rhine in Karlsruhe in October. Photo: DPA

Months of drought have left water levels on Germany's Rhine river at a record low, exposing a World War II bomb and forcing ship operators to halt services to prevent vessels from running aground.

SEE ALSO: Record low water levels lead to discovery of bomb in Cologne 

The water level on the Rhine on Friday reached just 77 centimetres (30 inches), 4 cm below a previous record low of 81 cm recorded in 2003, Cologne's waterworks authorities said.

Although rainfall is expected next week, forecasters said it would not suffice to bring up water levels in Germany's most important waterway and a key shipping route for the Netherlands and France.

Freight ships have had to reduce the volume of cargo carried in the shallow waters.
Passenger liners plying Cologne and Mainz have been halted since Monday because of the low water level, operator KD said.

Meanwhile the dried out riverbed has exposed all kinds of objects, including a 50-kilo World War II bomb that would have to be defused in the coming days.

Ahead of the operation, water traffic around the site in Cologne has been halted.

Germany, like much of Europe, has enjoyed a prolonged period of warm and sunny weather.

But farmers have long complained that the persistent drought was wreaking havoc on crops, with annual production expected to be down by a fifth.

Fourteen of Germany's 16 states have applied to benefit from a federal aid 
programme for farmers.

SEE ALSO: Farmers to get 170 million in state aid after drought ruins harvest

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WWII bomb found in Frankfurt safely detonated after mass evacuation

A massive World War II bomb found in Germany's financial capital Frankfurt was safely detonated in the early hours of Thursday, the city's fire service said, allowing tens of thousands of evacuated residents to return to their homes.

WWII bomb found in Frankfurt safely detonated after mass evacuation
Experts stand on mountains of sand, which were put in place to soften the force of the explosion of the WWII bomb in Frankfurt's Nordend. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The 500-kilogram unexploded bomb was unearthed during construction work on Wednesday in the densely populated Nordend area of the city, a location firefighters said made it a “particular challenge” to remove.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper reported the ordnance had been discovered right next to a children’s playground at a depth of about two metres (6.5 feet).

READ ALSO: What you need to know about WWII bomb disposals in Germany

Its report said the controlled blast, which happened just after midnight, “sounded like thunder rumbling” and left a hole three metres deep and ten metres wide.

Firefighters said that they had covered the bomb with 40 truckloads of sand before detonating it, in order to minimise damage to the surrounding buildings.

Around 25,000 people had been asked to evacuate the area, including the occupants of a nearby community hospital’s neonatal ward.

Among residents who took shelter at a skating rink was 29-year-old Tobias, carrying his pet cat in a cage.

He said he had heard the news over a police loudspeaker and been ordered to leave his home immediately, causing a “bit of stress”.

Barbara, 77, told AFP the news was “a bit of a shock, we don’t expect that”.

However, building works in Germany regularly unearth unexploded World War II ordnance, 76 years after the conflict’s end.

Seven bombs were defused in 2020 on land near Berlin where Tesla plans to build its first factory in Europe for electric cars.  

READ ALSO: WWII bomb in Frankfurt triggers 30m high water fountain

Other bombs were also discovered last year in Frankfurt, Cologne, and Dortmund.

In Frankfurt, the discovery of a 1.4-tonne bomb in 2017 led to the removal of 65,000 people, the biggest such evacuation in Europe since 1945.