Germany warns of heat danger and forest fires as temperatures soar

As temperatures climbed in Germany on Tuesday, politicians and social organisations warned residents to take care in the extreme heat, and look out for vulnerable people.

A man drinks water in Hanover on Tuesday.
A man drinks water in Hanover on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

A purple heat warning was in place for most of Germany on Tuesday, as temperatures were expected to soar towards 40C in some regions. 

The extreme heat is to move eastwards on Wednesday, and it will ease off slightly on Thursday with thunderstorms expected. 

READ ALSO: Germany braces for hottest day of the year

The purple area shows the heat warning on Tuesday. Screenshot: German Weather Service (DWD).

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach urged people to help the elderly. 

“Younger people should look out for the elderly and remind them of the importance of drinking enough and keeping cool,” the minister wrote on social media while retweeting advice from the Health Ministry on coping with the heat. 

“Their lives (elderly people) are in danger in the coming days. Consideration and active help are needed now.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) advised people against drinking alcohol on hot days.

Alcoholic beverages combined with high temperatures dilate the blood vessels, blood pressure drops and the body loses fluids, the centre said. This can lead to circulatory problems and even unconsciousness.

Since the summer heat leads to increased sweating and an increased need for fluids, alcoholic drinks are not appropriate, the centre said.

The centre urged people to drink water, unsweetened tea or isotonic drinks to quench their thirst. 

‘Crisis plan’

In view of the heat-related dangers, the social association VdK demanded a heat protection plan with comprehensive plans for nursing homes.

“We urgently need a crisis plan for heat events, which causes stress, in particular to people in nursing homes and hospitals,” VdK President Verena Bentele told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

“A heat action plan is needed, with comprehensive guidelines for care providers: from the storage of medication to structural measures such as the installation of thermal windows and shading systems.”

READ ALSO: Warnings of water shortages as heatwave reaches Germany

The VdK leader also pleaded for an information campaign for family caregivers. “Those who are cared for at home must not be forgotten,” she said.

Bentele warned that the current heatwave could be life-threatening, especially for the elderly, those in need of care and the chronically ill.

The medical association Marburger Bund also urged for a national heat protection plan and a heat awareness campaign.

“Politicians must significantly expand their efforts for protective measures during hot spells,” chairwoman Susanne Johna told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

Cities and districts need heat protection plans so that senior citizen facilities, hospitals and other health care facilities can better prepare for heatwaves, which would be “best regulated by a national heat protection plan”.

Trade union Verdi called for hitzefrei (days off work or school because of heat) and longer breaks for workers because of the heat.

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei – is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school?

Authorities across Germany have been warning people to take care in the heat. 

“Drink enough, avoid direct sun and physically strenuous activities, and keep your home cool,” the health authorities in Hamburg said.

High forest fire risk

Forest fires are also a major fear as temperatures rise. The highest warning level has been issued in 10 out of Germany’s 16 federal states, including Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt, as well as in Hesse, Berlin, Rhineland-Palatinate and Lower Saxony.

The Bavarian minister of forestry, Michaela Kaniber, called on all forest visitors to be especially careful.

“The current heatwave and the prevailing drought mean that in many places the forest ground is covered with dried-up, easily flammable leaves, twigs and needles. Even a carelessly discarded cigarette butt is enough to start a momentous forest fire.”

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What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

Parts of Germany will see another heatwave this week as temperatures soar.

What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

The German Weather Service (DWD) has predicted that the mercury will climb in some regions of to around 34C this week. 

“After low pressure ‘Karin’ gave parts of Germany rain, sometimes in large quantities, high pressure ‘Piet’ is now back in pole position,” said meteorologist Lars Kirchhübel of the DWD.

This high pressure zone will dominate the weather in large parts of western and central Europe over the coming days, the weather expert said, adding that it will reach Germany too. 

On Monday temperatures remained fairly cool across the country after a weekend of showers, but they are set to climb over the course of the week, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday. Forecasters predict it could reach 32C in Stuttgart and 33C in Cologne on Thursday. Locally, temperatures could reach 34C. 

However, from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the Erzgebirge mountains and southeast Bavaria, denser clouds and some showers are to be expected. This is due to a high-level low pressure system over the Balkan region, according to forecasters. Short showers are also possible in the Black Forest.

“In most of the rest of the country, high ‘Piet’ will be able to hold its ground,” said Kirchhübel.

READ ALSO: Heavy rain in Bavaria swells rivers, but flooding avoided

At the end of the week, thunderstorms are forecast but temperatures are expected to remain high. 

August in Germany ‘too dry’

According to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, August as a whole – apart from a few areas in eastern Germany – will be too dry compared to the multi-year average.

The Black Forest, the High Rhine and the Allgäu to the Bavarian Forest, however, are not expected to have any major problems due to the high rainfall of the past few days.

“Looking at Rhineland-Palatinate, the southern half of Hesse, the western half of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Franconia shows a different picture,” said Kirchhübel. In the last 30 days, only about 10 percent of the usual level of precipitation fell in some places.

“At some stations, no precipitation at all has been measured in August,” added Kirchhübel, referencing Würzburg as an example.

Rainfall at the weekend caused the water in the Rhine river to rise slightly. In Emmerich, the water level reached a positive value again after the historic low of the past few days: in the morning, it showed three centimetres – an increase of six centimetres compared to the previous day.

The water level also rose by several centimetres at the other measuring points in North Rhine-Westphalia: in Cologne, the level rose to 80cm and in Düsseldorf to 38cm.

READ ALSO: Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

Despite this encouraging trend, the Waterways and Shipping Authority said it did not expect a huge improvement in water levels in the foreseeable future due to more hot weather coming.