Falling water levels in the Danube River during a recent heat wave across Europe have revealed new wreckage from a Nazi German military flotilla that was deliberately sunk there in the final months of World War II.
The wreckage of about 20 warships has now been uncovered near the city of Prahova in eastern Serbia, which is one of 10 countries through which the Danube flows between western Germany and the Black Sea. This is reported by Reuters news agency (opens in a new tab).
Many of the wrecks still contain tons of unexploded ordnance that threaten local fishermen, river traffic and wildlife, and the Serbian government plans to remove them. However, as the water level recedes, potentially explosive war debris poses an even greater danger than usual. According to Reuters, some now show turrets, conning bridges, broken masts and twisted hulls above water level, while others are mostly submerged below the shoals.
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“The German flotilla has left behind a great environmental disaster that threatens us, [the] residents of Prahova,” said local historian Velimir Trazhilovych, Reuters reports.
Water levels in the Danube and many other major rivers in Europe have fallen after months of high levels temperature and rainfall is lower than normal; in Serbia, the authorities began using dredges (floating grab cranes that can dredge the riverbed) to keep the Danube shipping channel open to river traffic. But the debris reduced the width of the channel at Prahova to just 330 feet (100 meters) instead of the usual 600 feet (180 m).
In pictures: The Danube has sunk to one of its lowest levels in nearly a century, exposing the wreckage of Nazi warships that are now endangering trade and fishermen. https://t.co/vopMsberDqAugust 22, 2022
Black Sea Fleet
Up to 200 warships of the German Navy in the Black Sea were deliberately scuttled in the Danube near Prahów in late 1944 on the orders of its commander, Rear Admiral Paul-Willi Zyb of the Kriegsmarine, Germany’s navy from 1935 to 1945. .
Zib led a convoy of warships, soldiers and civilians from the Black Sea regions up the Danube as they retreated from Soviet forces advancing through Romania after August 1944. This is reported by the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel (opens in a new tab).
But Battle Group Zib came under heavy fire from the Soviet coast in the north, and after an unsuccessful attempt to reach German territory, breaking through the gorge known as the “Iron Gate” (opens in a new tab) about 20 miles (30 kilometers) upstream, Zib ordered warships to be sunk at Prahova in late September 1944. He also ordered personnel to march on foot to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, which was then controlled by the German military.
Seeb’s idea was to deliberately sink German warships in zigzag lines, which would at least slow down the Soviet advance. But it did not help, and Nazi Germany surrendered to the Soviets and the Allies in May 1945.
The result of the massive flooding near Prahav was the creation of a dangerous obstacle for boats on the Danube, which is most vulnerable when the river level drops each time. summer. Some of the wreckage was removed after the war ended, but most of it is still there. This year, the Serbian government proposed a $30 million operation to remove them, Reuters reports.
Last summer, Europe experienced a heatwave, This is reported by the state German television company Deutsche Welle (opens in a new tab)which has exacerbated low water levels in major rivers such as the Danube, but this is not a new problem.
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The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (opens in a new tab) notes that dams, reservoirs, irrigation networks, flood defenses and navigation channels on the main Danube and its many tributaries reduce the flow of the river, and that hydroelectric dams and reservoirs are one of the biggest threats.
According to the environmental organization, the Danube was once a wide-branching river within an extensive regional network of tributaries and inlets World Wildlife Fund (opens in a new tab) (WWF). But more than 80% of the length of the Danube is now subject to government regulations, and more than 700 dams and dams (fences or fences) have been built on the river’s tributaries since the 19th century, according to the WWF.
More than 80 million people live in the Danube basin in southeastern Europe, and more than 20 million depend directly on the Danube for water.
But the Danube is now one of the world’s 10 most threatened river systems, where human intervention – particularly during rapid industrialization in the 19th and 20th centuries – has been devastating to wildlife and environmental issues such as protecting flood and water management, according to WWF (opens in a new tab).
Originally published on Live Science.