Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt is among those sounding the alarm over the Loire ? and getting called out over it
The Loire - France's longest river with a length of over 1,000km - has allegedly dried up to the point that people can walk across it without even getting wet. This was the alarming message spread this week by politicians and media outlets, as they shared pictures online of a river bed that looks more like a desert, in the western French department of Loire-Atlantique.
"The Loire, France's longest river, has virtually dried up," journalist Ian Fraser wrote. "You can now walk across it," Melanie Vogel, a French senator and co-chair of the European Green Party, said.
French daily Ouest-France offered "impressive shots which show the seriousness of the situation," publishing photos of the supposedly dried up river bed.
Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who later served as the EU Parliament's Brexit coordinator, was quick to blame the drought and heat wave gripping Europe on climate change. "Enough ifs and buts. We need to wean ourselves off from fossil fuels now!" he said in a Twitter post featuring a similar photo of the supposedly dried up Loire.
Many on social media were alarmed by the news. Others, however, said the politicians and journalists might have been too quick to sound the alarm. One person noted that the river bed in question is "not the main stream" of the Loire, since the river flow splits into two streams in the area where the photos were apparently taken. "It may indeed be very dry now, but this is a very bad example, bordering on fake new[s]," a person identified only as Jules replied to Verhofstadt.
Others argued that the situation is not that bad. "Ian, the river splits round an island there and that section is dry virtually every summer," one person told Fraser. People on Twitter also posted photos and videos showing the Loire was anything but dry, calling the alarming reports "not true."
A man who identified himself as Thibault Laconde, an engineer with Centrale Supelec - France's top engineering graduate school - posted a series of analytical posts explaining that the river is in fact "not dry." While admitting that the river flow is indeed "at its lowest since 1976," Laconde argued that photos showing "a dead arm" of the river lead to unnecessary "dramatization."
Fraser appeared to be one of the few people who admitted their mistake following the replies.
Europe is facing a severe drought, which has caused the water levels in the continent's major rivers to decline dramatically. In the UK, the source of the River Thames was reported to have dried up further downstream than ever before.
In Germany, the water level in the Rhine was expected to fall below 40 centimeters on Friday. Italy's longest river, the Po, saw water completely disappearing from some of its tributaries upstream of the city of Turin.
The Loire is not the only river sparking concerns in France. The water in the Rhone and Garonne rivers is reportedly too warm to effectively cool the nuclear reactors at the nation's power plants.