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We need to prepare for them now
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We need to prepare for them now

A rainbow above flooded land


Many believed that 2021 was the year. year of the flood. From Canada to India, and across western Europe and Australia, this year’s deluges have led to hundreds of deaths, enormous financial costs and immeasurable suffering.

Get started with research myself othersThe flood risk map around the globe shows how changing our outlook on floods can help to avoid disasters. No matter how much rain falls, flood disasters happen because of decisions that put people and places in harm’s way – and they can be averted.

For example, the southern portion of the province of British ColumbiaCanada has a lengthy historyFloods and landslides. Deluges in NovemberAt least four people were killed in the tsunami, which washed away highways, and forced towns to evacuate.

This was most likely due to the excessive rain. exacerbatedby human-driven climate changes, but its impacts were made worse by widespread deforestation and the construction of infrastructure on floodplains or in a drained Lake.

The 2018 floods in KeralaIn southern India, the causes of these deaths were also deforestation and poor planning. However, there was an increase in urban development that contributed to the floodsThis year, in the region

And in Western Europe, many places hit by rising water in July 2021 – such as the town of Altena in Germany – were known to be at high flood riskThanks to floods in the past decades. Despite a flood alert system forecastingThis information was not translated into action, even though it was predicted heavy rains days in advance.

A rainbow above flooded land
Flooding in Germany caused massive damage.
Gerda Arendt/Wikimedia

These tragic situations could have been prevented by simple measures to reduce the risk of storms: planning buildings on safer land, improving river and forest management, and providing safety education.

How to reduce your risk

In 1970, a cycloneBangladesh was devastated, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Another cycloneOver 100,000 people were killed in 1991. But in subsequent decades concerted effortsby local leaders and governments that are focused on risk awareness. livelihood resilience and evacuation procedures – these measures reduced the death toll across the country to just dozens when cyclones struck in 2020 and 2021.

Similar efforts saved thousands of lives during hurricanes in Texas. In 1900, there were a hurricaneAt least 6,000 bodies were left behind by the Galveston hurricanes that passed through the city. Recent events, however, saw a smaller number of deaths from Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, Hurricane Rita 2005, Hurricane Ike 2008, Hurricane Harvey 2017 and Hurricane Rita 2005.

Rita over 80% of Texas’ 119 fatalities were attributed to poorly managed evacuation procedures. Similarly, despite record rainfall during Harvey, the hurricane’s destructionThis was largely due to Texans flooding flood-prone areas with buildings without preparing citizens for floods.

Water Management

As climate change worsens, it’s projected that tropical cyclones – and the floods they cause – will become less frequent but more intense. Future storms will have more severe consequences if we don’t take action now. If there are fewer storms, and our preparations for them become sloppy, disasters will only get worse.

A motorway submerged in water
Thousands of New Orleans residents had to be rescued during Hurricane Katrina.
SmiteMe/Flickr, CC BY-SA

This is what we can see phenomenonWhen people build flood-related structures, like at work dikes, levees and dams. Since they create a barrier between water and floodable areas, people often assume that those areas are safe to build on and that they don’t need to worry about flood risk. These structures are effective in preventing many smaller floods. But large floods are not a problem. inevitably occurDevastation is inevitable when a river, ocean or lake reclaims its territory.

New Orleans’ history is a great example. The city lies approximately half below sea level. city floodingThe Mississippi River dates back more than a quarter of an millennium. New Orleans has been subject to hurricanes since its inception, with Hurricane Betsy in 1965, and Hurricane Camille 1969.

In July 2004, Hurricane PamTraining exercise for emergency personnel showed how unprepared the city was for a hurricane. This included when it came to evacuation, search-and rescue efforts, debris removal, and temporary shelters. Tragically, this scenario was re-created in real life. Hurricane Katrina2005: The city was ravaged by a devastating earthquake. In 2005, the city was destroyed by levees. people drownedWhile waiting for rescue, you can be on the phone.

Flood-prone cities are often “protected” by flood “defences”, which have served mainly to encourage housing and business development on floodable land such as in London and Singapore. Both cities are upstream from massive defences that reduce the number of small floods. This allows for the construction of huge financial centers on floodplains.

But when, not if, a flood exceeds a defence’s capabilities, the lack of preparation will be apparent in the ensuing disaster. Warning systems, which are highly capable of issuing accurate flood alerts, exist – but as in this year’s floods in Germany, these won’t be effective without preparing populations for evacuation.

The Canadian city of TorontoAfter the flooding, it was decided to move buildings out from floodplains. Hurricane Hazel1954 saw at least 81 people killed when a path was sliced through the city.

A slab with words of memorial
A memorial to Hurricane Hazel stands on a Toronto riverpath.
Ilan Kelman, Author provided

Toronto created nature reserves in order to protect buildings and water from flood-damaged residential streets instead of rebuilding them. The city planners integrated the reserves into the growing city by creating cycling and walking paths alongside them. These are now commuting and recreational routes, educational sites, and have become a refuge for wildlife.

Hurricane Isabel 2003 and Sandy in 2012 again transformed Toronto’s watercourses into raging torrents, its floodplains were bare of buildings. The streets were littered with fallen trees, and power and transportation were disrupted. There was one fatality. Let’s use this knowledge and wisdom to prepare other towns and cities for handling future floods.


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