As cold spell grips Germany, warning over icy waterways issued

The Local Germany
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As cold spell grips Germany, warning over icy waterways issued
A man touches the thin ice surface on the Maschsee with his foot in Hanover, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

As the temperature continues to drop, ice is building across rivers and canals in Germany. But safety bosses are warning people not to walk or skate on frozen water because it could be dangerous.


This is a German language learner article. The words in bold are translated at the bottom of the article.

With temperatures of -15C in areas of the Bundesrepublik, ice, frost and snow is causing havoc across the country.

It's resulted in layers of ice building up on canals, rivers and other waterways. But the fire brigade and the German Lifesaving Association (DLRG) are urgently warning against pedestrians walking on lakes or canals that have partially frozen over, because the layers of ice are still too thin, reported German daily FAZ.

They also warned against people skating on lakes, saying people are risking their lives if they do.

SEE ALSO: Icy roads and low temperatures cause disruption across Germany

When is a frozen lake safe to go on?

If you want to avoid any risks then don't walk or skate on any body of water that's frozen over. The DLRG warns that even several days of freezing temperatures do not guarantee a sufficiently thick layer of ice. Many bodies of water are in motion and take a very long time to freeze over, they say.

Only ice surfaces officially approved by the authorities should be walked upon by members of the public.

A woman next to the partially frozen Machsee in Hanover. Photo: DPA

Anyone who, nevertheless, ventures onto frozen lakes is acting very carelessly, they said. In order to enter a lake, the ice should be at least 15 centimetres thick. In flowing waters, like a river with currents, this should be at least 20 cm.

What warning signs show that ice is too thin?

Most natural waters are generally not safe. Police and local authorities point out that venturing onto frozen water is at your own risk and advise people not to do it under any circumstances. And there are things to look out for: If the ice cracks for example, you shouldn’t go onto it.

Great care should also be taken with snow-covered ice surfaces. Lakes that meet rivers can be treacherous. The ice cover is much thinner where the lake meets the river. Here there is a much higher risk of ice breaking. The DLRG alone devotes around 150,000 hours to rescuing people in need every winter.

What should you do in the event of an accident?

If you're in the middle of a lake and you notice the ice is no longer bearing up, experts recommend that you lie down flat immediately and make your way back to the shore by pulling yourself along that way.

If you see someone break through the ice, the first thing to do is to make an emergency call (112). If you are not on the ice, don't go on to it but see if you can extend a jacket, board or an upturned sledge to pull the person out. Never give the person who has fallen in your hand.

The person who's been rescued should be laid flat, preferably wrapped in a warm blanket or jacket, until emergency teams arrive. Under no circumstances should people suffering from hypothermia be rubbed with snow or given alcohol to drink, experts say. This does not increase body temperatures.

SEE ALSO: IN PHOTOS: Frosty temperatures as low as -18C hit Germany

Forecasters predict temperatures will remain extremely low across the country in the coming days as the cold front continues. 

German vocab 

Verwüstung anrichten - to cause or wreak havoc

Deutsche Lebensrettungsgesellschaft - German Life Saving Association

noch zu dünn - still too thin

setzen ihr Leben aufs Spiel - risking their lives

ausreichend dicke Eisschicht - sufficiently thick layer of ice

handelt höchst leichtsinnig - acting very carelessly 

Wenn das Eis knackt - when the ice cracks

die Vorsicht - care/caution 

tückisch - treacherous 

umgedrehten Schlitten - upturned sledge 

unterkühlte Menschen - people with hypothermia



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