Dead fish float on the surface of the Oder River.
Thousands of fish float lifeless on the Oder River, which flows through Germany and Poland, raising fears of an environmental 'disaster' as local people are urged to stay away from its waters.
These shoals of fish streaming belly up on the shores near the eastern German town of Schwedt were likely carried by the current from Poland where the first cases were reported by local residents and fishermen as early as July 28.
Dead fish float on the surface of the Oder River in Krajnik Dolny, Poland near the German border.
German officials, taken by surprise by their massive arrival, have accused the Polish authorities for not informing them.
German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke has demanded a full investigation to determine the causes of this environmental disaster.
In Poland, the right-wing populist government has come under fire for not reacting sooner.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Saturday he had been informed on August 9 or 10 pollution. It is obvious that I learned this too late.
At first everyone thought it was just a case. a local problem, he said on his weekly podcast on Friday.
“The scale of pollution is very large, large enough to say that the Oder will need whole years to return to its natural state.
— Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Minister of Poland
Standing at the water's edge, Michel Tautenhahn, deputy head of the Lower Oder Valley National Park , looks, dismayed, in the direction of the river, which forms a natural border between Poland and Germany.
We are on the German side. We have dead fish everywhere, he told AFP.
I am deeply shocked…I feel like decades work ruined […] Water is our life, he said adding that a host of other aquatic animals such as mussels also succumbed.
Fish are just the tip of the iceberg, he says.
People look at dead fish on the banks of the Oder.
L& #x27;Oder is a river that has been considered relatively clean for many years, home to around 40 species of fish.
Many – some a few centimeters long, others almost 40 cm – now float lifelessly down the river. Sometimes you see some of them flapping their tails and turning around with difficulty to try to swim.
Authorities believe that the fish were probably poisoned.
Their death is atypical, explains Axel Vogel, Minister of the Environment for the Land of Brandenburg, judging that tons of fish have probably already perished.
Fish kills are often caused by distorted oxygen levels when the water level is too low, he explains.
“But we have noticed an increase in the oxygen level for several days, which indicates that a foreign substance has been introduced and caused this. »
— Axel Vogel, Minister of the Environment of the Land of Brandenburg
Tests are underway in Germany to establish the nature of this substance. Authorities have already reported signs pointing to extremely high levels of mercury.
Further preliminary tests released on Friday evening showed salinity unusually high. Other results are expected on the possible presence of heavy metals or mercury.
In Poland, the prosecution was seized of the case, while the x27;indignation is growing in the country. The head of government sacked two water and environmental protection officials on Friday, whom he blamed for acting too slowly.
On Saturday, the Polish police fired offered a reward of 210,000 euros to find the author of the pollution.
On the banks of the Oder in Germany, Mr. Tautenhahn worries for the future. If it is mercury, it will stay there for a long time, he said, recalling that this metal does not disintegrate and could remain for many years in the sediments.