Hundreds evacuated as forest fires hit eastern Germany

Around 600 people were evacuated from the Elbe-Elster district of Brandenburg on Monday as firefighters battled to put out raging wildfires. Trains between Cottbus and Leipzig have been interrupted as a result.

A fire truck drives over a smoky path during a forest fire in Brandenburg.
A fire truck drives over a smoky path during a forest fire in Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jan Woitas

A large forest fire broke out in the Elbe-Elster district of Brandenburg on Monday, spreading to an area of 800 hectares – the equivalent size of approximately 2,000 football pitches – by Tuesday.

Around 200 residents from the town of Rehfeld and 400 in the Kölsa district in the town of Falkenberg were ordered to evacuate their homes.

On Tuesday morning, a spokesman for the fire department said that the situation was “very tense” as the fire was not yet under control. The Kölsa-Siedlung region in the town of Falkenberg (Elster) was particularly affected, the spokesman added. The fire department was on the scene with 152 emergency workers.

READ ALSO: Warnings of water shortages as heatwave reaches Germany

Deputy Forest Fire Protection Officer Philipp Haase said darkness also hampered firefighting efforts, which is why only limited firefighting was possible during the night.

According to a statement issued by the fire department late on Monday evening, the situation was caused “above all by violent storm gusts, which made the firefighters’ extinguishing work considerably more difficult and in parts even impossible.” 

According to the German Weather Service (DWD), wind gusts of up to 60 kilometers per hour were also expected on Tuesday, which could further ignite the fire. Light showers have also been announced for the region, but it is unclear when they will reach the fire area and if they will provide much assistance in extinguishing the flames. 

READ ALSO: Germany set for more extreme heat and storms

Train services interrupted

As a result of the fires, Deutsche Bahn paused some services between Leipzig and Cottbus. The rail firm said the section between Torgau and Falkenberg (Elster) of the RE10 line was affected.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.