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Drought left Germany's Rhine River with just 30cm of water

Christian Fernsby |
The Rhine is one of Europe's great working rivers and industry here relies on barges to fetch and carry raw materials and finished products to and from the power plants and factories that line the riverbank.

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The levels of the Rhine River fell to a new low on Friday due to the ongoing drought in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, further restricting the distribution of coal, petrol, wheat and other commodities.

The water level at Kaub near Frankfurt – a key waypoint where the fairway is shallower than elsewhere on the river – fell below 40cm on Friday afternoon, the level at which it is no longer economical for many barges to transit the river.

Captain Andre Kimpel says "We have 1.5m of water and our boat sits 1.20m deep. So we have 30 centimetres of water left beneath us."

According to a daily bulletin by Germany’s Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration, water levels on the key waterway were at an unusually low level for this point in the year, and was estimated to drop by a further 10-15cm over the coming three or four days.

While 14-day weather forecasts predict rising water levels from the middle of next week, the administration said this was unlikely to have a significant impact.

While vessels were still able to travel on the Rhine last week, companies were forced to reduce their load, and capacity for switching transport to rail or road is limited.


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