Due to Europe's worst drought in recent years, the normally full-flowing Danube River has reached one of its lowest levels in nearly a century, exposing the wreckage of dozens of explosive-laden German warships that sank during World War II near the Serbian river port town of Prahovo.
The vessels were among the hundreds sunk on the Danube by Nazi Germany's Black Sea Fleet in 1944 as they retreated from the Soviet troops. These ships still prevent movement along the river during low water.
However, this year's drought exacerbated by anthropogenic global warming has exposed more than 20 wrecks in a section of the Danube near Prahovo in eastern Serbia, many of which still contain tons of ammunition and explosives and pose a hazard to navigation.
“The German flotilla left behind a great environmental disaster that threatens us, the inhabitants of Prahovo,” said Velimir Trajilovich, 74, a pensioner from Prahovo who has written a book about German ships.
Workers in the local fishing industry are also at risk , including from Romania on the other side.
Months of drought and record high temperatures have hampered river traffic along vital arteries in other parts of Europe, including Germany, Italy and France. In Serbia, the authorities resorted to dredging to keep open the shipping lanes on the Danube.
Some of the Nazi ship hulls narrowed the navigable section on this section of the Danube to 100 meters from 180 meters.
Scattered along the river bed, some ships still have turrets, command bridges, broken masts and hulls, while others have only a skeleton left.
In March, the Serbian government announced a tender for the salvage of hulls and the removal of ammunition and explosives substances. The cost of the operation was estimated at 29 million euros (30 million dollars).