Flooding case study - 2005 European Floods



[6 August 2007]
[5 July 2007]



What happened?

The 2005 European floods hit mainly Romania, Switzerland, Austria and Germany, as well as several other countries in Central Europe and Eastern Europe during August 2005.


When did it happen?

August 2005.

With rain and flood waters subsiding on August 27, people started to return to their homes, rail and road routes reopened and the cleanup began.


Where did it happen?


Why did it happen?

The 2005 floods were driven by extreme meteorological events in parts of the Danube River Basin. In April, strong rains in Romania, along with melting snow in the mountain region and soil saturated by water, led to hundred-year floods. Source


Who was affected by it happening?

  • 62 dead (31 in Romania, 20 in Bulgaria, six in Switzerland, and five in Austria and Germany). Source.
  • Romania. The floods in spring and summer affected about 1.5 million inhabitants. Altogether 43,900 houses, 4682 bridges and footbridges, 590 social and economic buildings, 10,334 km of roads and 253 flood protection constructions were damaged or totally destroyed. More than 12,000 people were evacuated, and 71 casualties were recorded.
  • Bulgaria. Three months of rain and flooding left 14,000 homeless. The country was hit by further floods in August (normally a very dry month), though these did not cause such widespread damage, but caused damage to the year's crops, causing an increase in the price of fruit and vegetables. Railways and roads have been left severely damaged by the floods and the government has asked the European Union for financial support.
  • Switzerland. The Swiss capital of Bern was also heavily hit after the Aar burst its banks. The village of Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Alps was completely cut off. The only exit from the town is by a very narrow gorge just wide enough to take the river, road and railway, and the river expanded to fill the entire gorge. This stranded thousands of tourists in the village, and the only way out was by helicopter or by crossing one of the high Alpine passes.
  • Austria. The Tyrol and Vorarlberg states of Austria saw many areas cut off by flooded roads. Several floodings and landslides were reported in Lower Austria and Styria.
  • Germany. The floods took on a political dimension ahead of the 2005 German general election, with some in Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democratic party hinting the opposition conservatives in Bavaria could have done more to prevent the damage. Swiss Reinsurance, the world's second-largest reinsurer, said losses from the flooding could reach 1bn Swiss francs (£440m) in Switzerland, Austria and Germany.


  1. In which month(s) did the 2005 European Floods occur?
  2. List the countries affected by the 2005 European Floods.
  3. What does the term ‘hundred-year’ flood mean?
  4. List four ways in which humans turned the extreme natural event of the floods into a disaster.
  5. What was the death toll of the 2005 European Floods – by country?
  6. Categorise the consequences of the 2005 European Floods as being social, economic or political.