Dangerous, potentially explosive ‘graveyard’ revealed amid Europe’s historic drought

·3 min read
Csaba Krizsan/AP

Amid Europe’s historic drought, dropping water levels revealed a dangerous and potentially explosive site in the Danube River.

The Danube River stretches over 1,700 miles across Western Europe, passing through 10 countries before flowing into the Black Sea.

Scattered along one portion of the river – a section near Prahovo, Serbia, on the border to Romania – lies a “large graveyard of shipwrecks” intentionally sunk by retreating Nazi German forces at the end of WWII, according to the Danube Region Strategy.

No one knows exactly how many shipwrecks are in the area, but at least 23 sunken ships interfere with river traffic, the regional authority said.

The sunken warships still contain explosive materials, Gordana Karović writes in the book, The Danube in Serbia. The quantity and exact location of these dangerous materials inside the ships remains unknown, Karović writes.

The collision of a passing ship hitting a submerged warship could cause an explosion, the Danube Region Strategy explained. This concern intensifies during “periods of low water.” the river authority said.

The river is currently experiencing one such lLow water period, Aug. 18 photos from Reuters showed.

Water levels in the Danube River have dropped to their lowest levels “in almost a century,” exposing the remains of WWII shipwrecks, Reuters reported.

In Serbia, the Danube’s water level has dropped to less than half its usual August depth – no more than waist high for nearly half its width, Reuters reported this week.

The Danube’s water levels have been described as “critically low,” The European Times reported. Some areas have recorded water levels below sea level “for almost a month now,” according to the outlet.

Europe’s current drought – amplified by human-induced climate change and on track to be the worst one in 500 years – has shrunk waterways across the region. Italy’s Po River fell to its lowest water levels in 70 years, Bloomberg reported. Spain’s reservoir’s shriveled up to expose a “megalithic monument,” and Germany’s Elbe River has dried enough to expose dire warnings on century-old “hunger stones.”

About 47% of Europe is under drought warning and another 17% under drought alert conditions, according to the European Drought Observatory.

The heatwave and multiple months without significant rainfall have “left Europe’s essential waterways under-replenished and, increasingly, overheated,” The Guardian reported on Aug. 13.

Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania have begun dredging the Danube in an effort to keep the waterway navigable for ships, Bloomberg reported on Aug. 10.

Conditions are not expected to improve any time soon, but rather the European Drought Observatory told Sky News earlier this month that, “we have estimated a worsening of the situation in most of Europe.”

Prahovo is about 150 miles east of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.

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