Parts of the river Rhine in Germany have been closed to shipping because of a rise in water levels following recent heavy rain, German authorities said on Thursday.

Rhine river shipping has been stopped around Maxau in south Germany, the German inland waterways navigation agency WSA said.

High water means vessels do not have enough space to sail under bridges, preventing vessels reaching Switzerland.

Central and northern sections of the river are open to shipping.

Water levels are forecast to fall, allowing shipping to resume later on Thursday or on Friday, said the water level forecasting service of the Rheinland-Pfalz state government.

The Rhine is an important shipping route for commodities including minerals, coal and oil products such as heating oil, grains and animal feed.

The river has repeatedly suffered from low water levels because of unusually dry summers in recent years.

Source: Reuters reported by Michael Hogan and edited by Robert Birsel