July 8

This Day in History

Disaster

Jul 8, 1997:

Torrential rains cause flooding in Europe

Torrential rains in the Carpathian Mountains cause serious flooding in the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany on this day in 1997. In all, 104 people died as a result of the deluge. In the aftermath, authorities from each country blamed the others for the extent of the disaster.

The Rhine and Oder rivers run through central Europe, crossing many national borders. On July 5, heavy rains began falling throughout the region, particularly in the Carpathians. After the storm system had persisted in the area for nearly six days, the rivers could no longer contain the immense volume of water.

Poland and the Czech Republic experienced the worst of the flooding. Nearly 40 percent of their populations were affected by the flood conditions, forcing many to evacuate their homes. In some towns, the levees held, but in others they failed, with tragic consequences. More than 200 villages in Poland experienced severe flooding. Fifty-six people died in Poland and 46 were killed in the Czech Republic. Approximately $6 billion dollars in damages were caused by the widespread flooding. Private flood insurance is a rarity in Europe, making the events an even greater hardship for many people.

In Germany, thousands of people fought the floods by reinforcing dikes and levees. While they were largely successful in early July, continued rain later in the month caused many of the reinforced structures to eventually give way. In the aftermath of the disaster, the countries involved took turns blaming each other for the flood, hurling accusations of poor maintenance of dams, levees and dikes as well as irresponsible implementation of flood-control procedures back and forth. In reality, however, the widespread nature of the disaster made it impossible to single out any one particular cause.

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