Officials in southern Germany have issued a state of emergency as heavy snowfall was forecast before the weekend. Meteorologists said they have seen the heaviest snowfall in a decade and that there was more to come.
People are trying to free roofs of snow to prevent them from collapsing
Firefighters, army personnel and volunteers are working frantically around the clock, because in the whole of Bavaria several tons of snow have to be removed from roofs.
Soldiers have been helping to clear roofs
Up to one meter of new snow is expected within the next hours. Bavaria's Interior Ministry urged people to clear any more snow promptly to help prevent further deaths and injuries. Walter Preis, who is supervising the clearance work in the region of Passau, said he has never seen anything like this before.
"This situation is really exceptional," he said. "We always have a lot snow here, but this year it's been snowing non-stop since mid November and that is why massive layers of snow have built up."
16 dead as result of collapsi n g roofs
The collapsed roof of the ice rink in Bad Reichenhall
Several roofs have already collapsed under heavy snow over the past weeks. The most tragic incident happened in January when the roof of an ice rink in Bad Reichenhall collapsed and 15 people were killed.
This week the roof of a supermarket caved in east of Munich. Several employees and a shopper were injured. One firefighter died on Wednesday while clearing a roof and several
others got injured during the painstaking work.
People in eastern Bavaria spend a lot of time shoveling snow at the moment
But hundreds of school children in the small town of Kopfing were lucky. They got a warning shortly before the roof of their school collapsed. The town's mayor, Otto Strassl, said he is glad that everyone reacted quickly.
"One neighbor saw how the roof caved in under the snow," he said. "She called the teachers and the school got evacuated immediately."
Floodi n g elsewhere
Meanwhile, in parts of eastern Germany, people are already struggling with the aftermath of the heavy snowfall. Rising temperatures have caused flooding as the snow and ice melted quickly and raised water levels in rivers.
Authorities in Saxony issued a state of emergency, and soldiers worked alongside firefighters to pump water out of basements and shore up dams. An official at the flood center in Dresden said that there are no signs of an improvement in the situation.