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Lack of rain hurts cargo firms on Rhine

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Lack of rain hurts cargo firms on Rhine
Swiss images (File)
15:37 CET+01:00

Ships plying the Rhine in Switzerland have had to ditch much of their cargo as a a prolonged absence of rain causes water levels to dip way below normal.

With almost no rain falling on Switzerland in the last month, the depth of the Rhine stands at a measly 1.5 metres in the harbour in Basel, compared to its usual three or four metres in November. 

The shallow waters are causing major losses for cargo companies that can only transport between 30 to 40 percent of their usual load.

The head of the Danser cargo firm, Heinz Amacker, said revenue was down by 50 percent over the last two weeks.

"Cargo ships normally carry 3,200 tonnes of goods, but at the moment they are only transporting 900 to 1,000," Amacker told newspaper NZZ.

He said it was impossible to compensate by increasing the price threefold, but he admits having raised the price per tonne transported by 20 to 30 percent.

If it does not rain in the coming weeks, the situation could become precarious, said Amacker. If the water level drops to 1.20 metres, ships will no longer be able to dock in the city's port. 

According to weather forecasts, Switzerland is set remain in the grip of the unusual autumn drought for several more weeks. The protracted dry spell is the second of its kind this year, after very little rain fell in the period from February to April.

In the last 150 years, only 1921 saw drier weather for the period from January to October.

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