Articles | Volume 9, issue 3
23 Jun 2009
 | 23 Jun 2009

The Swiss flood and landslide damage database 1972–2007

N. Hilker, A. Badoux, and C. Hegg

Abstract. In Switzerland, floods, debris flows, landslides and rockfalls cause damage every year affecting property values, infrastructure, forestry and agriculture. As population and settled areas have increased, the damage potential has also become greater. Information about natural hazard events that caused any damage is needed for hazard mapping and further decision making. This is why the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL has been systematically collecting information on flood and mass movement damage in a database since 1972. The estimated direct financial damage as well as fatalities and injured people have been documented using press articles as the main source of information. The database can provide answers to questions related to the temporal and spatial distribution of damage, natural hazard processes and the corresponding weather conditions. This study describes the data collection methods used and the key analyses of data from 1972 to 2007. Furthermore, the benefits and drawbacks of the database are discussed. In Switzerland, naturally triggered floods, debris flows, landslides and rockfalls have caused financial damage amounting to nearly 8000 million Euros in total within the last 36 years (taking inflation into account). These processes have mainly affected pre– and central alpine regions and their total costs of damage are dominated by a few major events. Nearly one quarter of the costs result from August 2005 when large parts of Northern Switzerland were affected by flooding. We must assume that major events like this are not unique and that similar events will occur again in future.