It started rather harmlessly, it rained and there is nothing special to it around this time of year. It is common in summer that heavy thunderstorms which last about two or three hours wash away the heat of the day sometimes during the week.
When the lightning began to fly through the night sky like little lance tips thrown by Zeus himself I was not concerned. Moments later it started raining, heavy drops, exploding against the cooling ground and that was somewhat beautiful, yet it did not stop, not after two hours, nor after three and not even after ten.
Meanwhile, the soil had to cope with as much water as usually falls during the whole month of August. All that water had come down within six to ten hours, forcing tiny creeks to leave their path, letting them swell toward huge, ripping stream taking with them whatever dared to stand in their path. Austria is a country that has a lot of water, some located in the bigger streams as the Inn, Steyr and the largest and best known one, the Donau.
A lot of tiny creeks are usually coming down from the mountain areas where lakes are located. By focusing on the measured values in the Donau I will try to explain how much water has been transported in the last couple of days.
The mean value measured for the Donau is usually at or around 4.5 meters. The measured value during a similar incident in 1954 was 8.6 meters at its maximum. This year, before the water simply ripped the tide gauges away, the last recorded value was 10.8 metres. To put this into terms which humans can grasp, that would equal that in most areas of Austria the Donau transported an amount equal to 300 tank lorries a second.
A single tank lorry is usually able to hold twelve to fifteen thousand litres of water, this leaves you with some simple calculations and you will know what enormous amounts of water passed a single point on the shore per second.
The hilly nature and the rocky, hard structure of the soil makes it hard for the ground to absorb a lot of water in short periods of time additionally the ground is usually not flat but always has a little bit of slope. Especially the inaccessible and stony areas of Austria sometimes have a very steep incline. The result of this is, that the water is accelerated very quickly thus creating a lot of pressure when it impacts with immovable objects such as barrages.
Austrian officials have always been aware of the very special situation in Austria. Every time soil is cleared to be a brownfield the officials have to verify that it cannot be flooded in the next hundred years. To accomplish this rather complicated computations and simulations are used to calculate how high the water might get using the mean of the last 200 years. According to scientists the flooding we are experiencing right now happens once every 500 years and that is something no one could have predicted. Personally I think, that this is not our fault, it is not even the fault of industrialisation or us humans and how we use this planet, it is simply that happens once in a while and just like out ancestors we have to deal with it.
A lot of electricity in Austria is produced by hydroelectric power plants, especially the Donau (Danube) has a couple of sections where the water is artificially damed up. Whenever a high water situation is encounter the pressure against those barrages become to high for the structure to bare and the flood gates have to be opened, the additional amount of water released into the main stream results most of the time in a tidal wave which increases the amount of damage done by the rising tide gauge
Some might assume, that it is common to regulate a river in Austria, but the contrary is the case. In the early 1960's the government passed a bill which prohibits the regulation of a river unless it is needed to ensure the proper operation of an institution which serves the common good. The most common reason for this law to allow regulation of a river applies when a new power plant is being built which has not happened in the past fifteen years.
Certain areas of Austria as predestined to flooding due to the topographic of their location, one of those areas is the so-called Kamp Tal. If you would like to see a graphic representation of the area you will simply have to enter "Kamp Tal" here.
The website is in german and a bit hard to nagigate, if you are interested in other topographic maps of Austria, please query google.
This particular area of the state "Niederösterreich," (Lower Austria) where the rivers Kamp, and Ybbs meet the Donau has been hit worst in these days of flood. An area as large as Los Angeles, to put it in US American dimensions, has been flooded within sixteen hours. Pictures from all over Austria, shot while people try to clean up the huge amounts of sludge left behind can be found here and here.
Those pictures cannot express the pain and sorrow and the vast destruction left behind, they do not even begin to describe the disaster. In my normal life I am but a simple management type of guy, but while I was younger, I made my helicopter license and last week I offered myself as a pilot to those who needed to rest. Even though military Pilots and those from the ministry of inner affairs did their job until total exhaustion they had to be releaved by volunteers like me sooner or later.
The sights have seen from above where saddening. Large two story houses completely submerged by water, people clinging to the chimney, waiting for us get them from their roof, transporting them to safety.
The amount of damage done cannot be assessed yet, but official estimate it to be more than 100 Millard's of Euro, that equal about 98.5 Millard Dollar (One Millard is the equivalent of 1 Billion).
What makes this worse, is that you are helpless, nothing that I have witnessed, be it fire, an earthquake or a large avalanche is as devastating and vicious as water. There is nothing a human can do to stop it, once there is too much all you can do is to anticipate the flood and hope that you started running soon enough.
You cannot outrun a flood, you cannot hide from it and you cannot stop it. It is frustrating to see, that you are but human and that there are still powers you will never be able to control, on the other hand, it is reassuring too.
More than 11.000 soldiers and numerous volunteers helped the last couple of days to try and clean homes, bridges and public areas off the thick layer of sludge left behind in some homes more than one and a half metres of sludge have to be cleaned out of the rooms and then transported off the immediate surroundings. Bridges, streets and rail tracks have been destroyed; the governmental railroad company estimates the costs for rebuilding the network at around 200 Million Euros, around 180 Million Dollars.
Not only the people in Austria suffer, the people in Czechia and Germany have been hit just as hard, if not harder. Especially in Czechia the situation is very serious and those invovled try to do their best to resolve the situation. Prag has been flooded by the Moldau and Dresden has nearly been swept away by the Elbe. The World famous Semper Oper had to be cleared, it is full of water and the damaged caused there can hardly be enumerated.
While the water drifts back to its natural bedding and the sun starts drying up the moisture left behind, other type of moisture falls to the ground that had been flooded a few hours or days ago. The salty tears of those who have to look at what has been their existence. Large companies nearly broke, because all of their production gear is simply broken, private homes washed away by the force of the tidal wave and peasants that have to look at their fields, covered in mud, their harvest washed away. The government tries to handle this situation, but it is more than difficult to grasp how much money will be needed to help those that have nothing and everybody knows, that there is not enough money on this planet to heal the wounds left behind in the souls of those that have lost everything.
If you wish to help those that have been affected by the flood, I have included the information for the national charity bank acount on request
bank identification code: 60 000
account number: 90.008.108