The Strategist

Extreme heat in Europe turns into deadly danger

08/06/2018 - 12:40

Even mines and bombs that have been left after the Second World War are exploding because of forest fires, caused by the terrible heat in Europe.

Mark Wolfe/FEMA
Mark Wolfe/FEMA
Even old-timers cannot remember what is happening now in the Old World. The continent is exhausted by scorching heat and is suffocating in the smoke of forest fires. Forest fires occur annually, but this year the situation is complicated by a new danger. Ammunition left after the Second World War began to explode in Germany because of forest fires. Firemen fought with fire in the south-west of Berlin faced this new deadly phenomenon in the last days of July.

Explosions occurred in a pine forest 40 kilometers from the German capital, in the vicinity of the village of Fichtenwalde. To combat fire in such emergency conditions, they had to call a fire tank, that is, a special device used in particularly difficult conditions and usually made of battle tanks. The flame was stopped only 800 meters from the village.

Record heat shallowed rivers and reservoirs in Germany. The water level in the Elbe is now so low that military shells and bombs began to show up from the water. In Magdeburg, for example, the water level is now only a few centimeters from the historic low recorded in 1934.

The police of the east of Germany, in the land of Saxony-Anhalt, is warning people not to touch grenades, mines and other ammunition and weapons, which came to the surface now due to extreme weather conditions. Suffice it to say that ammunition was found last week in five different places. In total, 24 deadly finds were made in July. Basically, they are found in places that are covered with water under normal conditions. 

Sappers have to work 24 hours a day. Often, they are forced to neutralize dangerous finds on the spot. Despite seven decades in the water, most munitions are still in operating condition.

This July has become the hottest month in the history of meteorological observations in Germany. The weather forecasters do not promise anything better. According to forecasts, hot temperatures will remain at least a few more days. 

A similar picture, except for mines and grenades, can now be observed in most of Europe. In the last days of July, The Polish authorities prohibited swimming on a number of beaches on the coast of the Baltic Sea because of the dangerous ecological situation. Poisonous bacteria multiply in water because of the high temperature. The water in the Rhine and Elbe was so hot that the fish began to choke.

In Zurich, police dogs were given special "shoes" so that they would not burn their paws on the red-hot pavement. The Swiss authorities banned fireworks, fearing that they could cause forest fires. In Norway, drivers are warned to be particularly vigilant, because deer and sheep are often looking for a saving shadow in the tunnels.

The Mediterranean countries are suffering the most. Weather forecasters warn that thermometers may rise to a mark of 40 ° in the coming days. A red danger level, the highest on the three-level scale, is introduced in the center and in the north of Italy.

Portugal, where heat killed 114 people last year, is waiting for record temperatures in the next weekend. Authorities warn of the high risk of forest fires. Almost 11 thousand firefighters and 56 aircraft and helicopters are in a state of 24-hour readiness.

The situation in Spain is even more difficult. A state of emergency was announced in connection with record high temperatures in 27 of the 50 Spanish provinces. Greece, where forest fires killed 91 people in June, is also choking in the heat.

In recent weeks, even northern Sweden recorded the most severe in several decades forest fires. Forest fire were noticed even beyond the Arctic Circle. Fortunately, the rains last week have somewhat improved the situation.

The Swedes, by the way, seem to have found a new original way to combat forest fires. On July 25, the Gripen fighter jet dropped a 220-kilogram bomb with a laser sight in the Alvdalen area. Bombs are an effective weapon against fires, because an explosion burns all the oxygen on the surface of the earth and does not let flame to spread.