Europe’s scorching drought has revealed the hulls of dozens of German warships that were submerged during World War II near the Serbian river port city of Prahovo.
The ships, sunk on the Danube, were part of Nazi Germany’s Black Sea fleet in 1944 when they withdrew from advancing Soviet forces, officials said.
The ships still affect the river today, often hindering river traffic during low water levels, authorities said.
Now more than 20 ships have surfaced, many of which are still loaded with ammunition and explosives. Officials say the ships pose a risk to shipping on the Danube.
The ships have limited the navigable portion of the stretch at Prahova to 100 meters, significantly narrower than the previous 180 meters the ships had access to.
Serbian officials have started dredging along the river to save the usable shipping lanes.
We almost bet [our] whole [dredging] capacity… We are struggling to keep the waterways navigable for their full length,” said Veljko Kovacevic, Assistant Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Reuters.
Growing difficulties for boat shipping will affect the country’s vital transportation of coal, which accounts for two-thirds of Serbia’s electrical output, officials said.
Further implicating the energy crisis, water flow in Serbia’s hydropower system has halved in the past two months, officials told the Green energy news from the Balkans.
The country is also already experiencing the consequences of the war in Ukraine for their energy supply.
Officials said the ships vary, with some now showing turrets, command bridges, broken masts and twisted hulls, while more are buried under sandbars.
In March, the Serbian government invited a contracted private company to salvage some of the hulls and remove ammunition and explosives. The operation cost officials an estimated $30 million, according to the country’s ministry of infrastructure.
“The German fleet has left behind a major ecological disaster that threatens us, people of Prahovo,” said Velimir Trajilovic, 74, a retiree from Prahovo who wrote a book about the German ships. Reuters.
The exposure of a larger portion of the sunken fleet comes after a summer of low water levels and blistering drought.
Danube levels at Prahovo are less than half the average for this time of summer, experts say.
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