Postcard from... Lauenberg


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The Independent Online


Devastating floods swamped the medieval German town of Elbe in June and many historic buildings suffered  damage. The waters have receded but tourism remains badly affected.

Now the owners of Lauenberg’s hotels, restaurants and campsites say that business is terrible even though most of the damage has been cleared. With figures suggesting a 50 per cent drop in the numbers visiting the post-flood regions, politicians have appealed to their constituents to book holidays there.

“It will be a beautiful holiday and a gesture of solidarity,” insisted the Finance Minister Philipp Rösler.

But a certain Norbert Becker has stymied the well-meaning initiative. As scientific director of Germany’s Mosquito Control Association, he admits that “one could talk about a massive plague” of mosquitoes in the post-flood regions. “Even during the day you get attacked by hundreds of them,” he added.

Fears have been further stoked by horror headlines about a “mega-mosquito plague” and the appearance of insects theoretically capable of infecting humans with west Nile and dengue fever.

“We have to keep an eye on the situation without getting panicked,” Mr Becker says. The plague is caused mainly by the “flood mosquito” (Aedes vexans) whose numbers began multiplying explosively when a heatwave set in. The good news is that Aedes vexans usually just inflicts irritating bites. The bad news: it sometimes carries dog heart worm larvae which in very rare cases can cause meningitis.