European drought unearths Nazi warships in Danube, historic ruins


One of Europe’s worst droughts on record has dried up the continent’s main waterways, revealing relics like a long-submerged village and World War II battleships.

This week, low water levels on the Serbian section of the Danube exposed a graveyard of sunken German warships filled with explosives and munitions. The ships, which emerged near the port city of Prahovo, were part of a Nazi Black Sea Fleet that sank in 1944 while fleeing Soviet forces. Other vessels are expected to be found lodged in the sandbars of the river, laden with unexploded ordnance.

A junior Serbian transport minister Told local media said there were around 10,000 explosive devices in the water.

Other ruins also emerged around Europe as the waters receded due to the drought. In July, an ancient Roman bridge built in the 1st century BC. was discovered in the Tiberand in August a village that had been deliberately flooded in 1963 to build a dam appeared from the Belesar Reservoir in Spain.

The village is one of many sites submerged under reservoirs in Spain. A ghost town that had been flooded to build a dam on the Spain-Portugal border emerged in February, revealing houses with windows and walls still intact.

Drought threatened shipping routes, food supplies and electricity in Europe this summer. Researchers from the European Union said earlier this month that almost half of the continent was in “warning” conditions, implying severe drought and a significant soil moisture deficit, a reported the Washington Post.

This isn’t the first time most sites and relics have come out of the water. Nazi ships, for example, also made an appearance during a heat wave in 2003. But the severity of the drought this year has made the waterways particularly difficult to navigate, as sunken boats pose a danger to fishing and shipping vessels that have to go around the carcasses to get out. Ships now have to squeeze through a 110-meter stretch of the Danube, nearly half of the available waterway they once had access to, according to Reuters.

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Officials estimate it will cost about $30 million to remove more than 20 ships, munitions and explosives, the newswire reported.

But the dry conditions have also given archaeologists and researchers a rare glimpse into the past and contact with normally hard-to-reach ruins.

Earlier this week, the relentless heatwave that left the Iberian Peninsula drier than ever in the past 1,200 years also exposed dozens of prehistoric stones in a reservoir in central Spain.

The drought emptied the reservoir to a fraction of its capacity, the Spanish government said, giving archaeologists valuable access to the Dolmen de Guadalperal, believed to date to 5,000 BC. Known as the ‘Spanish Stonehenge’, in reference to the prehistoric monument built in what is now England, the stones were first discovered in the 1920s. The area where they were flooded in the 1960s to build a dam, and they’ve only been fully visible a handful of times since, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.

“It’s a surprise, it’s a rare opportunity to be able to access it,” said archaeologist Enrique Cedillo, who rushes to examine the relics before they are submerged again. Reuters.

Matthew Cappucci contributed to this report.

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