In our recent blog post about very large hail events of 2018, we mentioned that hail produces large damage. However, it is rarely deadly, in contrast to flash floods. Based on the data from the European Severe Weather Database, by 12 December, flash floods have killed 152 people across Europe, parts of northern Africa and the Middle-East.
While most of the heavy rainfall events were reported in central Europe, the most deadly flash floods occurred in the Mediterranean area, including the 5 events with the highest number of fatalities, ranging from 12 to 21.
Who was at most risk during the flash floods? Out of 35 events with more than 1 fatality we identified 16 that involved vehicles being swept away by the floods. Because not all reports include detailed description of the fatality circumstances, the ratio of events including fatalities in cars is likely even higher. The deadliest flash flood also involved a vehicle. In a tragic event on 25 October, a flash flood swept away a bus in Jordan, killing 21 persons onboard.
Besides vehicles, several events involved a group of hikers being swept away by flash floods in the narrow canyons. The first such event occurred in Israel, on 5 May and resulted in 10 fatalities. On 1 August, 5 hikers were killed on Corsica and 10 hikers drowned in the Pollino national park in Italy on 20 August.
This shows that data from the ESWD can be used not only to identify the areas with the highest severe weather incidence, but also to compare the impacts of severe weather phenomena or to find out which groups of people are at most risk in a given severe weather type.