Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Rats return to Pied Piper's town

Rats feeding (file pic)
According to legend, the piper led the rats into the river

The Pied Piper's services might be needed again in Hamelin, northern Germany - because the rats are back.

An abandoned allotment site on the edge of town has become a haven for rats, with plenty of discarded food and rubbish lying around.

According to legend, in 1284 Hamelin - called Hameln in Germany - was infested with rats but a Pied Piper lured them out of town by playing a pipe.

He later lured the children out too - but the town still celebrates the tale.

Next year the town plans to mark the 725th anniversary of the Pied Piper conquering the plague, with various events including a huge children's procession.

A street in Hamelin (pic: town website)
Medieval buildings preserve the charm of Hamelin
Instead of drowning the rats in the nearby river, as the Pied Piper allegedly did, the authorities have placed traps around the allotment site to deal with them.

A spokesman for the authorities, Thomas Wahmes, said the problem was for now localised - but there was a threat that the rats could spread to a neighbouring housing estate.

Mr Wahmes said the rat population had "exploded" on the allotment site, but he could not tackle them there because he would be trespassing on private property, although it was not clear who owned which plots.

"We need to deal with the rats directly on the spot," he told the BBC News website on Wednesday, adding that the infested area was about the size of a football pitch.

He said offers of help had come from all over Germany since the media had broken news of Hamelin's new rat problem.

"There is no rat problem in the town centre and we hope that within weeks we'll have removed this threat," he said.

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