Drought in Italy Reveals Sunken World War II Barge

The Po, Italy’s largest river, is experiencing its worst drought in 70 years

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In June, a World War II barge became visible in the Po River Photo by Piero Cruciatti / AFP via Getty Images

Plagued by drought, Italy’s largest river is now so low that a sunken World War II barge is jutting out from the water.

The barge, called the Zibello, transported supplies during the war before it sank to the bottom of the Po River near the village of Gualtieri in 1943, reports Paolo Santalucia of the Associated Press (AP). In the past, the Po’s water levels have dipped low enough to reveal the bow of the ship. But now, as a record-setting drought in Northern Italy continues, much more of the 164-foot-long boat is visible.

“It’s the first time that we can see this barge,” says Raffaele Vezzali, an amateur cyclist who got off his bike to look at the exposed ship, to the Associated Press.

This draught is the worst to hit the Po River in 70 years. Northern Italy hasn’t gotten any rain in over 110 days, and temperatures are 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above average, according to the AP. Over the winter, the region also got 70 percent less snowfall than normal. These and other factors mean the Po’s water levels and flow rates are well below average for June, per the Guardian’s Angela Giuffrida. Water is so scarce in some areas that people can walk across the riverbed.

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The record-setting drought has revealed an extensive portion of the 164-foot-long boat. Photo by Piero Cruciatti / AFP via Getty Images

The 405-mile-long river flows east from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea. Along the way, the river provides water for farmers and ranchers who produce everything from tomatoes to grapes to Parmesan cheese. The region, also known as the Italian food valley, is responsible for some 40 percent of Italian food, according to the AP. Without water for irrigating their crops, farmers are already preparing for low yields this year.

The drought could also threaten the many hydroelectric power plants that rely on the Po’s water to produce energy. Per the AP, some 55 percent of Italy’s hydroelectric energy comes from the Po and its tributaries.

Residents in 125 towns along the river are also being asked to ration drinking water.

“Today, we’re worrying about the lack of water, which doesn’t only serve farmers for irrigation but energy production and human nutrition,” Renzo Bergamini, the mayor of Gualtieri, tells the Guardian.

In addition to the Zibello barge, the drought is also revealing other relics of the past long hidden by the Po. In March, a volunteer spotted metal sticking out of the sand in Sermide and realized it was a long-lost tank that German troops had pushed into the water in 1945. Per the Guardian, the remnants of an ancient hamlet also re-emerged in Piedmont. Elsewhere in the world, drought has revealed a 3,400-year-old city in Iraq and a village in Spain.

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