In pictures: Drought in Europe exposes sunken ships, lost villages and ominous ‘hunger stones’

By Elsa Maishman
BBC News

Published

17 hours ago

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World War Two

Stone with 2018 carved on it.Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
A carving on one of the “hunger stones” in the Rhine revealed a previous low point

Europe has been suffering weeks of drought, with persistent heatwaves leading to evacuations and deaths.

Rivers and lakes have dried, causing major problems for shipping and other vessels. The receding water levels have also revealed some usually-buried treasures.

The most ominous of these are “hunger stones”, engraved at the waterline of rivers during previous droughts as a warning to future generations that when the stones are above water, hardship lies ahead.

Most of the stones have reappeared on the banks of the river Elbe, which flows from the Czech Republic through Germany.

One stone, which was first carved as far back as the 15th Century, also surfaced in 1616, when locals inscribed into it the words “if you see me, cry”.

Low water levels in the Danube in Serbia have revealed the sunken remains of World War Two ships, still loaded with explosives.

The ships, found near the town of Prahovo, were part of a Nazi fleet sunk in 1944. More are expected to emerge as the drought continues.

Drought on the Rhine: ‘We have 30cm of water left’
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A partially-submerged shipImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Several German ships were sunk at Prahovo as the Nazis were fleeing Soviet forces

Unexploded ordnance has also been found in the River Po in Italy.

About 3,000 people were evacuated from a village near the city of Mantua in July, while experts removed and safely exploded a previously-submerged WW2 bomb.
A soldier watches a bomb being removed.Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The unexploded bomb was pulled from the River Po by the Italian army

A barge used by Germans and sunk in 1943 has also emerged in the River Po.

Locals began to see the Zibello barge as water levels dropped some months ago, and more of it has been revealed as the drought continues.
A partially-submerged bargeImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The “Zibello” barge is being revealed gradually

Low levels of the River Tiber in Rome have revealed the ruins of an ancient bridge which may have been built by the Emperor Nero around 50AD.

It has always been possible to see a small part of the ruins at low water level, but much more than usual can now be seen of the structure.

It lies below the site of a modern bridge, the Vittorio Emanuele II.
Ruins of an ancient bridgeImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ruins of the bridge built by Nero have been revealed in the River Tiber

In Spain, the “Spanish Stonehenge” has appeared in the Valdecanas reservoir in the central province of Caceres.

Officially called the Dolmen of Guadalperal, the circle of stones is believed to date back to 5000BC.

They were discovered by an archaeologist in 1926, but the area was flooded in a rural development project in 1963.

Since then they have only been visible four times.
The dolmen of GuadalperalImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
The “Spanish Stonehenge” was submerged by Franco-era officials but the dolmen is back in full view

In Galicia, on the border with Portugal, a “ghost village” emerged earlier in the year as drought dramatically emptied the waters of a reservoir.

Aceredo was flooded in 1992 to make way for the reservoir. Some of its former residents have returned to look around the now-ruined buildings.
Buildings of an abandoned villageImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The village of Aceredo in Spain’s Galicia region is normally under water

Lost treasures have also been revealed in the UK.

Ruins thought to be of a church in the village of Derwent in Derbyshire have been exposed.

The village was flooded in the 1940s to make way for the Ladybower reservoir.
Ladybower ReservoirImage source, Terry Westerman
Image caption,
The Derwent church spire was originally left intact as a memorial but later demolished

The remains of old trees have been exposed at Colliford Lake reservoir in Cornwall.

The area on Bodmin Moor was flooded in the 1980s.
The skeletons of old trees.Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
These trees have been underwater since the reservoir on Bodmin Moor was flooded

And traces of some 17th Century gardens appeared at Lydiard Park in Swindon, in south-west England, after hot weather killed off grass to reveal impressions in the ground beneath.

Similar “ghost gardens” have also appeared at Longleat, a nearby stately

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