Europe reels under ‘dramatic’ drought as images show low water levels along Rhine River

Source of River Thames dries up as drought continues in England

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Officials have warned drought conditions could affect the transport of goods, including coal and petrol, due to the low water levels along River Rhine. The drought poses a significant headache for German factories and power plants which rely on deliveries by ship along the key 1,232 km (766 mile) Rhine River.

The waterway – one of the longest and most important rivers in Europe – runs from the Swiss Alps through Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, France and the Netherlands.

Tim Alexandrin, a spokesman for Germany’s transport ministry, said: “This is particularly the case for the Rhine, whose nautical bottleneck at Kaub has very low water levels but which remains navigable for ships with small drafts.”

The Rhine is already lower now than it was at the same point in 2018, when Europe suffered its last major drought.

That year, the river ended up closing to goods vessels for 132 days, almost triggering a recession.

Costs to transport goods by river this year have already risen five-fold as barges limit their capacity to stay afloat.

Authorities predict water levels at Kaub could dip below 40 centimetres on Friday and could continue to drop over the weekend.

That is higher than the record low of 27cm in October 2018, but would mean many large ships would struggle to pass safely through the location – mid-way along the Rhine between Koblenz and Mainz.

Christian Lorenz, a spokesman for Germany logistics company HGK, said: “The situation is quite dramatic, but not as dramatic yet as in 2018.”

He added that due to the lack of water, ships bringing salt from Heilbronn to Cologne that would typically carry 2,200 tonnes of cargo can only currently transport 600 tonnes.

The Servia’s captain Peter Claereboets said: “Of course we hope that shipping won’t be halted, but we saw in 2018 that when water levels got very low the gas stations suddenly had no more fuel because ships couldn’t get through.

“Normally you have more than two metres under the ship but now you only have 40 centimetres in some places.

“And then for us the challenge is to get past those points without touching, without damaging the ship.

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“Because of the low water levels, the sailing route gets narrower, and we actually start travelling like trains, in a convoy.”

Mr Alexandrin said that theGerman authorities have begun taking steps to shift more goods traffic on to railways.

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