Boats high and dry as Central Europe fights drought

The River Danube is at record low levels in places. Picture: Getty
The River Danube is at record low levels in places. Picture: Getty
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RIVER traffic on the Danube has been disrupted with boats left high and dry, and crops destroyed as Central Europe battles one of its worst draughts in decades.

Dozens of ships have their passage blocked on the Danube, with shipping companies having to lighten their boat loads or transfer cargo to lorries and trains as they contend with a scorching and prolonged heat-wave caused by hot air moving northwards from Africa.

High temperatures may exceed 39C on some days

Czech meteorological office

In the Czech Republic temperatures have come close to 40C, and meteorologists expect July and August to the be the hottest months on record.

“The highs will generally exceed 30C, some days 35 and extreme cases they can rise as high as 39 or over,” said the Czech meteorological office yesterday. With little rain and the only occasional thunder storm forecast for the rest of the month, July-August could be “the hottest and driest period since the start of meteorological records in the Czech Republic”.

The heatwave across Europe, prompted the Association of British Travel Agents to warn holidaymakers to take extra care to avoid health risks such as dehydration and heat stroke.

Soaring temperatures in the Czech Republic have also triggered dozens of forest and field fires across the country, prompting the fire brigade to issue warnings about the dangers of lighting fires for barbecues.

In neighbouring Poland, the heatwave is expected to continue well into next week with average daytime temperatures of over 35C expected, although the country has been spared drought conditions so far.

The flow-rate of water on the River Danube as it enters Romania has fallen to half the summer average of 5,400 cubic-metres a second, and low water levels have forced Portul Corabia, one of the river’s key ports in Romania, to close for business. Even where river traffic is moving queues are forming as boats wait to use the navigable channels still available.

At the Romanian port of Galati, the water level has dropped to 38 inches, well below the 16 foot needed for safe passage.

A number of companies organising cruises on Europe’s longest river have had their business affected, with the lack of water forcing them to cancel or re-schedule cruises, or bus people around stretches of the river cosed to traffic.

The flow-rate of water in some Czech rivers has fallen to as low as 10 per cent of average as the country swelters in the worst draught for a decade. According to estimates by the country’s agriculture ministry, Czech fruit and vegetable growers will see profits drop by as much as 30 per cent owing to the harsh conditions.

In Romania the severe weather is expected to rack up damages to agriculture of up to £1.4 billion, with the sunflower crop, in particular, taking a battering. The poor harvest will lead to an increase in the prices of Romanian food products, said Laurentiu Baciu, president of the League of Associations of Agricultural Producers in Romania.

Insect experts have also warned the hot weather can make wasps and hornets unusually aggressive. The warning comes after a man died from multiple wasps stings earlier this month, while in Romania drivers have been advised not to travel between the 10am and 6pm, the hottest hours.