Through Fedja Grulovic
Serbia PRAHOVO — (Reuters) The majestic river Danube has reached one of its lowest levels in over a century as a result of Europe’s worst drought in recent memory, exposing the wrecks of numerous explosives-laden German warships lost during World War Two close to Serbia’s river port city of Prahovo.
The ships, which still impede river movement during low water levels, were among hundreds that Nazi Germany’s Black Sea fleet scuttled along the Danube in 1944 as they withdrew from oncoming Soviet forces.
On a section of the Danube near Prahovo in eastern Serbia, more than 20 hulks have been exposed by this year’s drought, which scientists believe is a result of global warming. Many of these hulks still carry tons of ammunition and explosives and provide a threat to commerce.
According to Velimir Trajilovic, a 74-year-old retired man from Prahovo who wrote a book on the German ships, “The German flotilla has left behind a great ecological disaster that threatens us, the residents of Prahovo.”
Workers in the regional fishing business, particularly those from Romania, which is located close across the river, are also in danger.
Other countries of Europe, such as Germany, Italy, and France, have seen congested river flow due to months of drought and record-high temperatures. To keep the Danube’s navigation arteries open, the Serbian government has turned to dredging.
By Prahovo, some of the hulks have reduced the Danube’s navigable segment from 180 meters to just 100 meters (330 feet).
Some of the ships, which are scattered throughout the riverbank, still have turrets, command bridges, shattered masts, and torn hulls, while others are mostly buried beneath sand banks.
The Serbian government issued a tender in March for the disposal of explosives and munitions from the wrecks. The procedure was expected to cost 30 million euros (or 29 million euros).
(Aleksandar Vasovic reported; Raissa Kasolowsky edited)
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