Europe

Hamelin: German town hit by new plague of rats

rat
Image caption Legend has it that the rats were lured to their fate in the River Weser

The fabled German town of Hamelin may need a new rat-catcher after it emerged that rodents had gnawed through a cable powering one of its fountains.

Hamelin is popular with tourists because of the legend of the Pied Piper who ended its plague of rats in 1284.

The Brothers Grimm told of how a man in colourful garb charmed the rodents into the River Weser, where they drowned.

But now the rats have staged a comeback, officials say, lured by food left by the tourists for the birds.

This is not the first time that Hamelin in Lower Saxony - called Hameln in Germany - has struggled with rats in recent years. In 2008, discarded food and rubbish made an allotment site outside the town a haven for the rodents.

But the fountain, which was erected close to the railway station in the 1980s, is much nearer the centre and has dried up.

Although Hamelin officials are keen to rid themselves of their latest infestation, they appear to have little interest in repairing the fountain's broken cable.

Town spokesman Thomas Wahmes said the fountain had already become a problem because of the number of leaves that had to be cleared away on a regular basis: "The fountain is peculiarly hard to maintain and the piping is broken," spokesman Thomas Wahmes told the Deister and Weser Zeitung.

The BBC's Stephen Evans in Germany points out that even if the Pied Piper were around today he would probably not be interested in helping the residents of Hamelin.

The Grimm fairy tale describes how the Pied Piper was not paid for his work as a rat clearance operative, so he returned and piped away all the children.

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