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Gas crisis: Germans rush to stock up on coal for winter warmth

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By Euronews, AFP
An excavator unloads coal from a barge onto a stockpile next to a power plant, while the ECB building can be seen in the background in Frankfurt, Germany, Jan. 3, 2022.
An excavator unloads coal from a barge onto a stockpile next to a power plant, while the ECB building can be seen in the background in Frankfurt, Germany, Jan. 3, 2022.   -   Copyright  Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa via AP

Fearing a total cut-off of Russian gas over the winter in retaliation for European Union sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, some German individuals are now stocking up on coal.

In capital Berlin, the fossil fuel has now become a rare commodity.

In Berlin, 5,000 to 6,000 households still heat with coal, a tiny fraction of the roughly 1.9 million homes, the city says. These are often elderly people, sometimes entirely dependent on this fuel and living in old houses that have never been renovated, or lovers of the heavy heat emanating from old stoves.

But this year, new customers have arrived "in droves", Frithjof Engelke, whose small business has also diversified into wood pellets and fuel oil, stressed. 

Jean Blum is one of them. 

"I'm buying coal for the first time in many years," he said. Since his home was fitted with gas, he sometimes lit his stove but only with wood.

And while coal prices have risen, it remains well below that of gas or wood. 

"Even if it's bad for your health, it's better than being cold," he said. 

Production of coal has shot up across Germany since the beginning of the year but as demand is strong, suppliers are worried that they might not be able to meet it in full over the winter. 

Watch our report in the video player above.