Bitter cold brings danger of freezing deaths

With bitter cold expected Tuesday night in Germany’s east, police have warned of a high danger that people will freeze to death, especially the homeless.

Bitter cold brings danger of freezing deaths
Photo: DPA

The warning came after a 16-year-old girl in Lower Saxony froze to death Saturday night after falling into a ditch on her way home from a Christmas ball.

Police believe the drunk girl left the party at a pub and, while crossing a neighbouring patch of land, slipped in the darkness, fell into the ditch and couldn’t get out.

With no one having noticed her fall, she lay there for hours in temperatures of about -10 degrees Celsius. Her parents reported her missing and police and fire workers found her body a day later.

The German Weather Service (DWD) forecast temperatures to sink to a chilling -20 degrees in the east – and even colder in some places – though it would be a comparatively comfortable -1 degree in parts of the west.

“As far as temperatures are concerned, Germany is divided in two,” said DWD meteorologist Dorothea Paetzold.

A deep freezer typically operates at about -18 degrees.

Charities and emergency services are bracing themselves for a rough night, especially for homeless people who can’t find temporary shelter. Last winter, 17 people died around the country from cold.

Experts say that people these days generally watch out for the interests of homeless people during tough winters.

“People are sensitive,” said Thomas Specht, head of the group BAG Wohnungslosenhilfe, which helps the homeless. “Many keep a close look out and inform charity organisations or police if they see someone lying outside.”

DPA/The Local/djw

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Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

A stranded cargo ship caused traffic to be halted Wednesday at the Rhine river in western Germany after suffering a technical fault, authorities said, at a time when water transport was already ailing from a drought.

Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

The vessel is stuck at St. Goar and Oberwesel, in between the cities of Mainz and Koblenz, water police said, adding that they were expecting to clear the stricken ship within the day.

The machine damage came as water levels in the Rhine had dropped to critical points at several locations, including at nearby Kaub — a known bottleneck for shipping where the river runs narrow and shallow.

The gauge at Kaub stood at 34 cm (13 inches) on Wednesday, well below the 40-cm reference point.

While vessels are still able to navigate at low water levels, they are forced to reduce their loads to avoid the risk of running aground.

About four percent of freight is transported on waterways in Germany, including on the Rhine, which originates in Switzerland and runs through several countries including France and Germany before flowing into the sea in the Netherlands.

READ ALSO: How the Rhine’s low water levels are impacting Germany

Transport on the Rhine has gained significance in recent months because among cargo moved on the river is coal, now all the more necessary as Germany seeks to wean itself off Russian gas.

Germany’s biggest companies have already warned that major disruptions to river traffic could deal another blow to an economy already beset by logistical difficulties.

The 2018 drought, which saw the benchmark depth of the Rhine in Kaub drop to 25 cm in October, shrank German GDP by 0.2 percent that year, according to Deutsche Bank Research.