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I managed to get rid of the issue.

I was using the following parameter setting:

<param name="base_frame_id" value="/base_link" />

By setting the base_frame_id to any other frame not coinciding with /base_link, the issue could be fixed.

For my system, the /base_link lies on the map ground level. However, the ground level does not seem to be the issue. I initialized the system with /base_link lying above and below ground level and I was still getting the error

ERROR: Raycasting in direction (0,0,0) is not possible!

It seems like another property of /base_link was causing the issue.