European Environment Agency (EEA)

Mapping the impacts of natural hazards and technological accidents in Europe


Courtesy of Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

 Europe is experiencing an increasing number and impact of disasters due to natural hazards and technological accidents caused by a combination of changes in its physical, technological and human/ social systems. This report discusses the occurrence and impacts of disasters and the underlying hazards in Europe for the period 1998–2009. It is an update on and extension of the 2004 EEA report 'Mapping the impacts of recent natural disasters and technological accidents in Europe' (EEA, 2004) that covered the period 1998–2002.

The information and data used in this report are, to a large extent, derived from global or European databases or sources (natural hazards: EM-DAT maintained by CRED (EM-DAT, 2010) and NatCatSERVICE maintained by Munich Re (NatCatSERVICE, 2010), the European Forest Fires Information System EFFIS (2010); technological hazards: European Maritime Safety Agency EMSA (2010) and the Major Accident Reporting System MARS (2010)). However, to provide a more comprehensive overview, additional national sources of information were used where available.

The potential for a hazard to cause a disaster mainly depends on how vulnerable an exposed community is to such hazards. Actions and measures, if well implemented, can reduce the human health and economic impact of a hazardous event. However, they can also(unintentionally) increase the exposure to risks and exacerbate the impacts of a hazardous event to the point of becoming a disaster. At the same time there are no internationally agreed minimum criteria for an event to be classified as a disaster. Furthermore, even events which do not reach a certain 'disaster-threshold' and, thus, do not appear in global disaster databases may account for a considerable proportion of losses (e.g. if there are many of these events, as is for example the case with landslides). This report includes events 'below international thresholds' for which other (national) data are available, without aiming to provide a comprehensive definition of a disaster.

There is some evidence that climate change is contributing to increasing the frequency and intensity of weather related natural hazards. It is projected that these effects of climate change could intensify in the future. However, an assessment of how climate change affects the intensity and frequency of disasters in Europe is considered beyond the scope of this report and is therefore not included.

Impacts of natural hazards and technological accidents in Europe in 1998–2009

Between 1998 and 2009, natural hazards and technological accidents caused nearly 100 000 fatalities and affected more than 11 million people. Events with the highest human losses were the heat wave of 2003 over western and southern Europe, with more than 70 000 fatalities, and the Izmit (Turkey) earthquake of 1999, with more than 17 000 fatalities. The largest disasters due to natural hazards caused, overall, a loss of about EUR 150 billion in the 32 EEA member countries (1), and if some other smaller hazardous events were included this amount would increase to an overall impact of about EUR 200 billion. Among the events resulting in the largest overall losses were the floods in Central Europe (2002, over EUR 20 billion), in Italy, France and the Swiss Alps (2000, about EUR 12 billion) and in the United Kingdom (2007, over EUR 4 billion); the earthquakes in Izmit (Turkey, 1999, over EUR 11 billion) and L'Aquila (Italy, 2009, more than EUR 2 billion) as well as winter storms over Central Europe in December 1999 (more than EUR 18 billion) and January 2007 (almost EUR 8 billion).

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