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Central European floods: increasing exposure of economic assets

Passau flooded 2013 © Photo by Volker Kannacher (2013) CC BY-ND 2.0

Central Europe

During an unusually wet spring in Central Europe, groundwater levels were high and soils already saturated when exceedingly high levels of rainfall occurred in late May and early June 2013, leading to severe flooding of the Elbe and Danube rivers and their tributaries. Rainfall levels with a 100-year return period were recorded , resulting in the evacuation of 52,500 people in Germany alone and 25 deaths across the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria. Total economic losses across Central Europe have been estimated at between US$14.7 billion and US$22 billion (EM-DAT ; Munich Re, 2014; Zurich Insurance, 2014).

The events of 2002 and 2013 were by far the two greatest floods in Germany since 1900 (EM-DAT, 2014). While many areas were affected just as severely or even more so in 2013 than in 2002, the reduced loss suggests that investments were made in risk reduction (Munich Re, 2014; Zurich Insurance 2014). However, the fact that ten of Germany’s eleven US$1 billion disasters have occurred since 1990 clearly points to increasing risks.

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