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Lower Saxony battles severe flooding, extensive agricultural damage, Germany

Lower Saxony battles severe flooding, extensive agricultural damage, Germany

Severe flooding is affecting parts of Germany again after record-breaking December rains, with Lower Saxony facing the brunt of the deluge and emergency services, including the armed forces, responding to the crisis.

Germany is again experiencing severe flooding following a period of record rainfall that has seen rivers burst their banks across the country. The recent resurgence of heavy rains, after a brief respite, threatens to worsen the already dire situation in several regions, with forecasts indicating continued downpours until the upcoming Saturday, January 6.

This crisis has prompted the postponement of school reopenings and the mobilization of the armed forces to aid in the response efforts.

Lower Saxony, located in the northwest and near the Dutch border, has been the worst affected state. The region experienced a historic 166 mm (6.5 inches) of rainfall in December 2023, more than double the average and the highest level recorded since 1881.

This has placed an immense strain on flood defenses, with the initial reserve of 2 million sandbags being depleted. An additional 1.5 million sandbags have been urgently sourced from other states as several dykes, particularly around the town of Oldenburg, are at risk of breaching.

The agricultural sector has borne a significant brunt of the crisis. Landvolk Niedersachsen, the regional farmers’ association, reports that all 35 000 farms in Lower Saxony have suffered water damage to their fields, with several hundred thousand hectares of arable land and grassland submerged. While most stables have been spared, the inundation has affected hundreds of farm buildings, and the evacuation of livestock has been necessary in a few cases.

The impact extends to crucial crops, with the potato and sugar beet harvests in jeopardy.

An unusually wet autumn has rendered many paths impassable for the heavy machinery required for harvesting, exacerbating the challenges faced by farmers. Reinicke, a local farmer, noted that many fields have been underwater since November, indicating prolonged distress for the agricultural community.

References:

1 Germany hit by floods after rainfall hits record highs – Le Monde – January 5, 2024

2 Floods in Germany: Desperate farmers fight to save harvests – DW – January 4, 2024

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