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EEA report signposts rising risks of European floods


One in eight Europeans now live in an area at risk of flooding which also threatens critical infrastructure, according to a report by the European Environment Agency(EEA).

The report was released as severe flooding caused by heavy rainfall has inundated Voeren and Liège in Belgium, as well as parts of France. Netherlands, Italy and Germany.

The EEA report 'Responding to climate change impacts on human health in Europe: focus on floods, droughts and water quality’ says better coordination by governments, water authorities and healthcare providers are urgently needed to prevent and reduce health impacts.

Aleksandra Kazmierczak, a climate and health expert at the EEA, issued this warning: "Around 15% of industrial facilities in Europe may be located on flood plains. Infrastructures such as water treatment plants are located further downstream. And more than a third of them in Europe are located on flood plains.”

The new findings come from a report focussed on the impact of climate change on the entire EU water cycle, which also includes drought and forest fires. Between 1980 and 2022, 5,582 flood-related deaths and 702 wildfire-related deaths were recorded across 32 European countries.

The EEA report says: “Without fast and systemic action to increase societal resilience the health impacts of the changing climate through floods, droughts and impaired water quality will worsen.”

Belgian emergency services battled to deal with latest deluge triggering local disaster plans. "This is worse than in 2021," stated Mayor Joris Gaens, referring to the devastating floods that hit Voeren and the province of Liège three years ago. Emergency shelters have been set up for those affected.

In France, between 40 to 75 mm of rain fell in a short span, leading to substantial disruptions. The A4 motorway from Strasbourg to Paris was partially closed, and over 2,000 emergency calls were made in the region.

Germany's Saarland region has experienced flooding and landslides, particularly affecting Saarbrücken. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, accompanied by Saarland Premier Anke Rehlinger, visited the affected areas underlining the gravity of the situation. Officials said it was the worst flooding in the area for nearly 30 years, dykes were breached in several areas, causing power to fail or be shut down as a precaution.

In northern Italy severe storms and heavy rainfall impacted the region leaving several areas, including Padua and Vicenza, submerged. In contrast, southern Italy is experiencing an unseasonal heatwave, with temperatures soaring to 35°C in Sicily.

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