Disaster warning messages have emerged on river beds in parts of Europe. The continent faces a historic drought that has led to serious drops in major rivers. On most river beds, centuries-old cravings are chiseled in the rocks, warning the locals to expect the worst. Known as the “Hungersteine,” or “Hunger Stones,” the messages warn of the worst once these stones are visible. 

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On River Elde, which runs from the Czechia through Germany to the North Sea, stones dating back to 1616 have been seen again. According to Aitor Hernández-Morales, a journalist working with POLITICO, the rocks warn the locals to weep. One of the messages reads “Wenn du mich seehst, dann weine,” translating roughly to: “If you see me, weep.”

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The first surfaced in 2018 when a severe drought hit Europe according to NPR. A team of Czech researchers reviewed them in 2013 and described them as having been “chiseled with the years of hardship and the initials of authors lost to history… the basic inscriptions warn of the consequences of drought. It expressed that drought had brought a bad harvest, lack of food, high prices, and hunger for poor people.”

The recent droughts have once again exposed the hunger stones, which are often used as a warning of the tougher times ahead. At the time when they were chiseled, they were meant to mark desperately low river levels that would forecast famines.

According to the European Drought Observatory, the drought is the worst to be seen in 600 years. Currently, over 47% of Europe is under drought warning conditions, meaning the soil has a moisture deficit. Another 17% is on warning to mean vegetation in the area is being depleted.

Some of the major rivers in Europe that are under threat include the Thames, Rhine and Po. Currently, the rivers are reported as being too dry, too low and too warm. Water levels in the Rhine River are nearly half the depth of the river at this time of the year. With the water levels, shipping cargo across the river has become more expensive. Cargo ships have become expensive since they have to carry a smaller load to avoid getting stuck in the river. 

In Italy, the prime minister said that the country is experiencing its worst water crisis in 70 years. If the same crisis continues, the whole of Europe will suffer significantly.

Via Miami Herald

Lead image via Petr David Josek/AP