Sunken Nazi WWII Warships Resurface In Danube River As Drought Worsens
More than 20 German warships that sank in the Danube River during World War II have resurfaced as record heatwaves in Europe reduced the essential waterway to one of its lowest levels in modern history, Reuters reported.
The warships were previously known to authorities but remained largely underwater for decades. They are now exposed near Prahovo, Serbia, in the Danube, which is Europe’s second-largest river and spans from southwestern Germany to eastern Romania, according to CBS News.
Formerly crewed by the Nazis’ Black Sea fleet, the German vessels were scuttled by Soviet ships while retreating in 1944.
Some of the vessels still have visible turrets and command bridges with ruptured masts and damaged hulls, while most are largely covered by sand banks. Most urgently, many of them still hold ammunition and explosives, which pose a danger to shipping industries and fishermen.
The resurfacing of the warships serves as a glaring reminder of rising temperatures around the globe. Water levels of the Danube River near Budapest, for instance, recently plummeted 5 feet in three weeks, according to the Associated Press.
This caused serious concern for environmentalists, as well as Budapest’s leading water company, which warned the drinking water supply could be jeopardized. Klara Kerpely of environmental group WWF Hungary told AP that “climate models suggest that further droughts are likely.”
Near Prahovo, the protruding hulks and their explosive cargo threaten international shipping.
The low water levels and resurfaced ships reduced vital navigation lanes for shipping companies along the Danube from 590 feet to 330 near the port town. Authorities were forced to dredge the Danube in order to retain some of these vital stretches of traversable river.
“The German flotilla has left behind a big ecological disaster that threatens us, people of Prahovo,” Velimir Trajilovic, a resident who wrote a book about German warships, told Reuters.
The Serbian government is confronting an expensive cleanup of the vessels. It estimated the cost at $30 million in March.