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Hundreds evacuated as forest fires hit eastern Germany

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AFP/DDP/The Local - [email protected]
Hundreds evacuated as forest fires hit eastern Germany
A fire truck drives over a smoky path during a forest fire in Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jan Woitas

Around 600 people were evacuated from the Elbe-Elster district of Brandenburg on Monday as firefighters battled to put out raging wildfires. Trains between Cottbus and Leipzig have been interrupted as a result.

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A large forest fire broke out in the Elbe-Elster district of Brandenburg on Monday, spreading to an area of 800 hectares - the equivalent size of approximately 2,000 football pitches - by Tuesday.

Around 200 residents from the town of Rehfeld and 400 in the Kölsa district in the town of Falkenberg were ordered to evacuate their homes.

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On Tuesday morning, a spokesman for the fire department said that the situation was "very tense" as the fire was not yet under control. The Kölsa-Siedlung region in the town of Falkenberg (Elster) was particularly affected, the spokesman added. The fire department was on the scene with 152 emergency workers.

READ ALSO: Warnings of water shortages as heatwave reaches Germany

Deputy Forest Fire Protection Officer Philipp Haase said darkness also hampered firefighting efforts, which is why only limited firefighting was possible during the night.

According to a statement issued by the fire department late on Monday evening, the situation was caused "above all by violent storm gusts, which made the firefighters' extinguishing work considerably more difficult and in parts even impossible." 

According to the German Weather Service (DWD), wind gusts of up to 60 kilometers per hour were also expected on Tuesday, which could further ignite the fire. Light showers have also been announced for the region, but it is unclear when they will reach the fire area and if they will provide much assistance in extinguishing the flames. 

READ ALSO: Germany set for more extreme heat and storms

Train services interrupted

As a result of the fires, Deutsche Bahn paused some services between Leipzig and Cottbus. The rail firm said the section between Torgau and Falkenberg (Elster) of the RE10 line was affected.

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