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Europe faces its worst drought in five centuries, says report

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By Rhal Ssan  & AFP
Boats left on a dry lake on the border of France and United Kingdom
Boats left on a dry lake on the border of France and United Kingdom   -   Copyright  Anthony Anex/Keystone via AP

Nearly half of the EU's territory is in so-called "warning" drought conditions, exhibiting a significant deficit of soil moisture, the latest European Drought Observatory claims. 

If areas under an “alert” drought state are included, nearly two-thirds of the bloc's territory is under some form of a drought warning.

In recent months, many waterways have become so dry that old shipwrecks, buildings or unexploded ordnance World War II became revealed.

On the border of Switzerland and France, the Brenets or De Chaillexon lake has almost completely disappeared.

Small green plants now line its bed. The lake has been there for 12,000 years and it was 18 metres deep, but it is now been relegated to a small stream of water due to the high summer temperatures.

This is one of the signs of a more worrying issue. Agriculture is forecast to take a big hit due to the difficult growing conditions presented this year.

Johannes Bahrke, a European Commission spokesperson, said, "The latest crop monitoring bulletin highlights that the exceptionally hot and dry weather conditions in large parts of Europe continue to substantially reduce yield outlooks for summer crops."

Bahrke also referred to the European Drought Observatory’s report, which stated that this is likely the worst drought in Europe in many centuries.

“According to Commission scientists, the weather is set to remain warmer and drier than usual in the Western Mediterranean region until November. And we have said it before, the current drought appears to be the worst since at least 500 years," he said.

According to the report, maize (whose yield is down 8.6% at the EU level), sunflower (-5.5%) and soy (-9.6%) are the most affected. The final yield for the maize crop is currently expected to be 16% below the average of the last five years.

Recent rainfall in some areas may well help allieviate drought conditions, but as they were accompanied by storms in many areas, the damage they brought will ultimately be counter-productive.

Among the regions most affected by the precipitation deficit, the report singles out central and southern Portugal, all of Spain, southern France, central Italy, southern Germany, and a large area covering Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova.