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Rainfall won't help low water in German rivers

August 18, 2022

Experts have issued warnings for flash foods, but say the brief rainfall will not be enough to refill the country's dry rivers. In Spain and Portugal, wildfires were finally brought under control.

Low water levels in the Rhine
Water levels in many European rivers are lower than they have been in centuriesImage: Rina Goldenberg-Huang/DW

Officials in Germany said on Thursday that the rainfall hitting the country after weeks of dry weather would not be enough to raise water levels high enough to restore normal river traffic.

The rain will not be long or sustained enough, according to the German Weather Service (DWD), and will mostly be confined to the north, east and parts of the south of Germany.

At the same time, the DWD had to issue a flash flood warning for areas around the Danube river in southern Germany, which was expected to be hit with heavy rain and thunderstorms on Friday. 

Areas parched by drought suffer from increased likelihood of flash floods because of the soil's inability to absorb water quickly.

Outside of Berlin, a forest fire that had been started by errant police munitions that raged for days was finally brought under control. However, local officials announced that large parts of the Grunewald forest would be closed to visitors for up to a year as experts combed the woods for dangerous materials that may have scattered throughout the area during the blaze.

How is Europe dealing with the drought?

Crisis felt across Europe

The low water levels in the Rhine have also deeply affected the Netherlands, through which the river also flows. Volunteers there have begun rescuing fish trapped in bodies of water that used to be connected by the country's intricate systems of canals and waterways. 

Teams from fishing clubs have been using nets to pluck up huge groups of carp, bream and pike out of distressed lakes and streams and bringing them to areas with more plentiful water.

In France, six people died in Corsica after a violent storm with hurricane-force winds battered the island. There was still no rain in the Loire valley, however, bringing river transport in the area to total standstill as the water was even too shallow for flat-bottomed tourist boats.

In Spain and Portugal, long-awaited rainfall meant that widespread wildfires could finally be brought under control. Thousands of firefighters had battled the fires and thousands of residents had been forced to leave their homes.

"The fire is under control, but it is not extinguished. Consolidation work will continue in the coming days," Portugal's civil protection commander, Miguel Oliveira, told TSF radio.

More than 25,000 hectares (62,000 acres) of land burned in Portugal during the latest spate of fires. In Spain; it was 13,000 hectares.

In Italy, the province of Tuscany was battered by storms after weeks of drought. The gales killed at least two people as a tornado hit the coastal town of Piombino.

Falling trees killed five people in Austria in two separate incidents as storms that hit the Mediterranean in the morning reached the Alpine country in the afternoon.

Two girls aged four and eight died when trees on the edge of a lake near the town of St Andrae in southern Austria, close to the border with Slovenia, collapsed, police said.

Three people were also killed by a falling tree in the area of the town of Gaming in Lower Austria. It was unclear whether the tree was felled by lightning or strong winds, he said.

es/aw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)