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WILDFIRES

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

A huge fire broke out early on Thursday in a popular forest in western Berlin following an explosion in a police munitions storage site, sending plumes of smoke into the skies and setting off intermittent explosions.

Fire in Berlin Grunewald forest
Black smoke rises from the trees in Berlin's Grunewald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Beate Schleep

The army sent in a tank aimed at evacuating munitions at the affected storage site as well as remote-controlled de-mining robots, while drones were circling the air to help assess the emergency.

The situation is “extremely extraordinary with munitions,” said Berlin fire brigade spokesman Thomas Kirstein, adding that it was “under control and there was no danger for Berliners.” 

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

The fire was however expected to last for some time, he said.

Firefighters called to the site in the middle of the night were confronted with intermittent blasts that sent debris flying and hindered their work.

They have so far been able to begin tackling only two of the four hotspots across the affected area of 15,000 square metres (161,500 square feet), as explosions at the munitions store were still rocking the area.

More than 140 firefighters were on the scene. No one has been hurt by the fires, which came on a day when a new heatwave hit Germany. 

“So far, there are no injured people and no-one has been affected by an evacuation,” Kirstein said at midday. 

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

The below tweet shows explosions early on Thursday morning in Grunewald. The clip was taken from the roof of the Corbusierhaus in the Westend area by building technician Michael von Rein. 

Officials have built a security cordon to allow firefighters to start working around a kilometre from the ammunition storage zone.

The store holds munitions uncovered by police, but also unexploded World War 2-era ordnance which is regularly dug up during construction works.

Police said they were investigating what set off the fire.

Authorities appealed for the public to avoid the forest, popular with both locals and tourists, as several regional rail lines have been halted.

But authorities said no firefighting choppers were available as they were already in use to calm forest fires in eastern Germany.

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

READ ALSO: German firefighters in ‘intense battle’ with wildfire

Earlier in the day the spokesman for the Berlin fire brigade described the tense conditions.

He said: “The situation is unpredictable. It’s burning uncontrollably in the forest.”

Smoke rises from the fire at the 'Grunewald' forest in Berlin.

Smoke rises from the fire at the ‘Grunewald’ forest in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Disruption to transport

As a result of the ongoing fire in Berlin’s largest forest, regional and S-Bahn services to the west were disrupted on Thursday. 

The S-Bahn line S7 was only running from Berlin to Grunewald, a railway spokesperson told DPA.

Regional trains running between Berlin-Wannsee and Berlin-Friedrichstraße, including the RE1, RE7, RB21 and RB22 were also disrupted. 

It’s currently not clear to what extent long-distance traffic is affected by the fire.

The Avus motorway between Spanischer Allee and Hüttenweg is closed in both directions, as are Kronprinzessinnenweg and Havelchaussee, the Berlin traffic centre said.

Authorities warned the public about the fire on warning apps and called for people to avoid the area. They advised nearby residents to keep windows and doors closed, and said ventilation and air conditioning systems should be turned off.

Heatwave

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.

Scientists say climate change is making heatwaves around the world more frequent and more intense, which increases the risk of fires.

Temperatures are expected to climb to as high as 40C across parts of Germany. In Berlin, they are predicted to reach around 36-38C before it becomes cooler on Friday. 

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Germany plans 1,000 extra drinking water fountains

German towns and cities are set to install 1,000 additional drinking water fountains in view of the warmer temperatures expected due to climate change.

Germany plans 1,000 extra drinking water fountains

Across Germany, there are only 1,300 drinking water fountains for members of the public. 

But now the government wants to change that. They are set to order cities and districts to set up more points for people to get access to tap water in public places.

In future, drinking water from the mains network must be freely available in as many public places as possible, said the Federal Environment Ministry following a cabinet decision.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about tap water in Germany

“Access to drinking water must be as easy as possible for everyone in Germany,” said Environment Minister Steffi Lemke.

“Drinking fountains with tap water are one of the basic building blocks of good heat prevention,” said the Green politician, referring to extreme weather events such as heatwaves and dry periods.

And because the water is provided without any packaging, the environment also benefits, Lemke said.

At least 1,000 additional drinking water fountains will be added to the current supply, almost doubling the amount. 

According to the draft law, water fountains are to be part of the public water supply as standard in future. Cities and municipalities have “extensive flexibility” in the location, exact number and type of drinking fountains, the government says. 

Germany is known for having a tricky relationship with tap water. Most Germans are still in favour of buying bottled water rather than drinking from the tap, even though it is safe to do so.

The culture has changed slightly in recent years, but many restaurants and cafes across Germany still think it is strange when people ask for tap water for the table. Some places will refuse to serve it completely. 

The push to install more public drinking water spots goes back to an EU requirement.

At the end of 2020, the EU Parliament, the Commission and the member states agreed on a reform of the Drinking Water Directive. As well as stricter requirements for the quality of drinking water with regard to pollutants, it also stipulates for better access to water in public places.

READ ALSO: Germany urges people to drink tap water to protect the environment

Vocabulary 

Drinking fountain – (der) Trinkwasserbrunnen

As simply as possible – so einfach wie möglich 

Tap water – (das) Leitungswasser

Extreme weather events – (die) Extremwetterereignisse

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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