Storms threaten Carnival celebrations across west Germany

Cancellations or delays loom for Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) carnival celebrations in Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz.

Storms threaten Carnival celebrations across west Germany
A Brexit float at Düsseldorf's carnival on Monday morning. Image: DPA

A looming storm over the north and west of Germany has led to the partial cancellation of Rose Monday celebrations in a number of German cities. Events in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Mainz and other towns throughout the region have been cancelled or scaled down due to storm fears. 

Rosenmontag traditionally represents the highlight of the carnival season, with schools closed and parades planned in several cities across Germany. The day also features the Rosenmontagszügen (Rose Monday Trains), a parade of intricately designed floats with a focus on political satire. 

On Monday morning festival organizers in Bottrop near Essen cancelled the parade, while certain larger floats were banned from the celebrations in Cologne. 

Düsseldorf postponed their parade by two hours pending a ‘wind check’ before it begins. North Rhine-Westphalia authorities said the event will not go ahead should wind be measured at ‘Wind Force 8’, which is the official storm limit set by the German Weather Service (DWD). 

In Koblenz the parade was also delayed by two hours while the distance was shortened by a kilometre. Delays were also forecast in Ratingen, Aachen and Münster. 

Bottrop mayor Bernd Tischler said while he was disappointed to have cancelled the event, safety was the city council’s top priority. 

“Of course it is difficult to digest for the many committed people who put their heart and soul into the anniversary presentation and for the Rose Monday procession,” Tischler told DPA.

Storms caused havoc across the region on Sunday night, damaging construction sites and causing road closures across North Rhine-Westphalia. A number of cars and trucks were damaged when a tree fell onto an Autobahn in Kerpen at around 5am on Monday morning, although there we no injuries. 

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While Rosenmontag is known as ‘Rose Monday’ in English, the original name comes from the German dialectic word ‘roose’, which means to frolic or romp. 

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‘Unprecedented’: How explosions and fires have rocked Berlin’s Grunewald forest

An "unprecedented" fire broke out on Thursday around a German police munitions storage site in a Berlin forest. Here's how events unfolded and the reaction.

'Unprecedented': How explosions and fires have rocked Berlin's Grunewald forest

What happened?

Emergency services were called out after explosions were heard in the ‘Grunewald’ forest in western Berlin in the early hours of Thursday morning. 

It then emerged that a fire had broken out near a police munitions storage site, all on one of the hottest days of the year when temperatures were forecast to reach around 38C in the German capital. 

As explosions continued at the site, sending debris flying into the air, firefighters weren’t initially able to get near the flames to extinguish it. Emergency services set up a 1,000-metre safety zone around the area.

This aerial photo taken by the Berlin Fire Brigade shows the fire in Grunewald.

This aerial photo taken by the Berlin Fire Brigade shows the fire in Grunewald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Berliner Feuerwehr

Later on Thursday afternoon, Berlin fire brigade spokesman Thomas Kirstein said the situation was “under control and there was no danger for Berliners” but that the fire was expected to last for some time.

No one has been hurt by the fires. Around 250 emergency workers were deployed to the site.

READ ALSO: Blasts ring out as forest fire rages in Berlin’s Grunewald

How was the fire being tackled?

The German army (Bundeswehr) was called in. They sent a tank aimed at evacuating munitions at the affected storage site as well as remote-controlled de-mining robots, while drones circled the air to assess the emergency.

Water cannons were also deployed around the safety zone to prevent the fire from spreading.

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey interrupted her holiday to visit the scene, calling the events “unprecedented in the post-war history of Berlin”.

Giffey advised people in Berlin to close their windows but said the danger was minimal as there were no residential buildings within a two-kilometre (1.2-mile) radius and so no need to issue evacuation orders.

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey speaks at the scene of the forest fire on Thursday

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey speaks at the scene of the forest fire on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

“It would be much more difficult if there were residential buildings nearby,” she said.

What caused the blaze?

That’s still unclear. Police say they are investigating what started the fire exactly. 

The store in question holds munitions uncovered by police, but also unexploded World War II-era ordnance which is regularly dug up during construction works.

Giffey said local authorities would “have to think about how to deal with this munitions site in the future and whether such a place is the right one in Berlin”.

Is Grunewald a popular site?

Very much so. The sprawling forest on the edge of Berlin is home to lots of hiking trails and is even near some popular lakes, such as the Krumme Lanke. It’s also near the Wannsee and Havel river. 

Map shows where the fire broke out in Berlin's Grunewald

Map shows where the fire broke out in Berlin’s Grunewald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Grafik | dpa-infografik GmbH

Authorities appealed for the public to avoid the forest, which is regularly visited by both locals and tourists.

Deutsche Bahn said regional and long-distance transport was disrupted due to the blaze.

A part of the Avus motorway between Spanischer Allee and Hüttenweg was also closed in both directions, as well as Kronprinzessinnenweg and Havelchaussee, according to the Berlin traffic centre.

Aren’t forest fires and strong heat causing problems elsewhere?

Yes. Authorities on Thursday said no firefighting choppers were available as they were already in use to calm forest fires in eastern Germany.

However, they also said the 1,000-metre safety zone applied to the air, so there was a limit to how useful it would be to drop water on the fire from above.

The German capital is rarely hit by forest fires, even though its 29,000 hectares of forests make it one of the greenest cities in the world.

Brandenburg, the region surrounding Berlin, as well as parts of eastern Germany have for days been battling forest fires.

Parts of Germany were also recently hit by forest fires during heatwaves this summer. 

Temperatures were expected to climb as high as 40C across parts of Germany on Thursday. However, it is set to cool down on Friday and thunderstorms are set to sweep in from the west.

With reporting by AFP’s David COURBET