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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Drought-hit Danube reveals war secrets
Dimbovita river in Bucharest
Many rivers have suffered dramatic drops
The receding waters of the River Danube in Croatia are revealing relics of World War II, as the country is gripped by its worst drought in 50 years.

Water levels in Croatia have dropped by nearly half a metre (18 inches).

The river is at its lowest level in almost 100 years in places, and the authorities are warning of water restrictions if the drought goes on.

But the plunging levels have allowed river-combers to discover not only light weaponry but also major pieces of equipment.

A German tank was found emerging from the water in eastern Croatia. Two military jeeps and personnel carrier were nearby.

Military historians believe the vehicles date from a battle for a wartime pontoon bridge in Batina, near the town of Osijek, said the Hina news agency.

Residents flee fire on Croatian island of Hvar
Croatia's drought has sparked forest fires
The battle involved the Soviet army, the Germans and Yugoslav partisans.

The area was sealed off by police amid fears that wartime explosives could also be uncovered.

Other discoveries have been made in a north-eastern border area where more than 20,000 German and Soviet troops fought in late 1944.

Elsewhere along the drought-hit Danube:

  • A Ukrainian ship ran aground on a stretch of the river in Serbia, blocking all river traffic
  • Bulgarian officials warned that shipping on their stretch of the Danube could be suspended this week, as levels hit a 100-year low - 280 centimetres (110 inches) below normal.
  • In Romania, 13 Bulgarians were reportedly arrested after walking across the Danube.
  • The Romanian stretches of the river have their lowest flow of any August since measurements began in 1840, state news agency Rompres reported, forcing a drop in electricity production.

As the drought in Croatia continues to bite, officials say water restrictions may start as early as this weekend. Levels in some areas are 70% below normal.

No major rainfall is forecast for Croatia.

The estimate of the number of people killed across Europe has continued to rise, with French health ministers describing a figure of 5,000 dead as plausible.

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