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Hambach Forest: Journalist dies after fall

September 19, 2018

Police have spent days evicting activists from the forest but said no actions were taking place when the man fell to his death. Activists have been there for six years in an attempt to keep the woods from being cut down.

A bridge suspended between two treehouses in Germany's Hambach Forest
Activists have constructed a connected network of tree houses, like this one, throughout the forest Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Gateau

Police in the city of Aachen report that a man who fell from a bridge suspended between two tree houses in the occupied Hambach Forest on Wednesday has died from his injuries. It is believed the man in question was a journalist. He is said to have sustained serious injuries after falling some 14 meters (45 feet) and died after being flown out of the area by helicopter.

Read more: Hambach Forest: Battleground for climate action

Aachen's police force has spent the past seven days removing activists from the hotly contested primal forest. As of Wednesday, they reported having cleared 39 of the 50 tree houses that activists built and have been living in for the last six years.

The police said that no operations were in progress in the area when the man fell; and that other efforts to clear protesters' encampments were halted.

Later on Wednesday evening North Rhine-Westphalia's Interior Minister Herbert Reul confirmed the temporary suspension of police activities in the area.

The standoff has been long coming but escalated last week when police moved in. Authorities say the tree houses represent a fire hazard. German energy company RWE, which owns the property, is set to begin clear cutting the forest in October so that it can expand its adjacent lignite mine — the largest open-pit mine in Europe and one of the biggest single sources of carbon on the continent.

Read more: Opinion: Hambach Forest — just because it's legal doesn't make it right

Opponents of the plan have been highly critical of the company's intentions, accusing it of putting profits over people and the environment. They have also demanded the end of coal energy production in the country. On Thursday, activists and environmentalists plan to present North Rhine-Westphalia's state premier, Armin Laschet, with petitions signed by 500,000 citizens calling for the state government to step in and save the forest.

js/msh (AFP, Reuters)