PRAHOVO, Serbia.- The worst drought in Europe in years led to the mighty Danube river to one of its lowest levels in almost a centuryexposing the hulls of Dozens of explosive-laden German warships sunk during World War II near the port of Prahovo, Serbia.
The ships are some of hundreds that were sunk in the Danube by the Black Sea fleet of the Nazi Germany in 1944 as they retreated from advancing Soviet forcesand still hamper river traffic during low water levels.
However, this year's drought, seen by scientists as a consequence of global warming, exposed more than 20 hulks on a stretch of the Danube near Prahovo in eastern Serbiamany of which still contain tons of ammunition and explosivesand represent a danger to maritime transport.
"The German flotilla left behind a huge ecological disaster that threatens us, people of Prahovo," said Velimir Trajilovic, 74, a retiree from Prahovo who wrote a book about the German ships.
Workers in the local fishing industry are also at risk, including those from Romania, which is across the river.
Months of drought and record temperatures have hampered river traffic on vital arteries in other parts of Europe, including Germany, Italy and France. In Serbia, authorities resorted to dredging to keep shipping lanes open on the Danube.
In Prahovo, some of the hulls halved the navigable section on this stretch of the Danube, which is now only 100 meters long.
Scattered across the riverbed, some of the boats still have turrets, bridges, broken masts and twisted hullswhile others lie mostly submerged under sandbanks.
In March, the Serbian government called for a tender to salvage the hulls and remove the ammunition and explosives. The cost of the operation was estimated at 30 million dollars.