When the “flood of the century” coursed through Switzerland 20 years ago, lakes and rivers overflowed and left a terrible mess in their wake.
Severe flooding in May 1999 killed one person and injured several others. Damage to property and infrastructure was severe, racking up thousands of insurance claims worth millions of Swiss francs. Especially hard hit were communities near Bern and in central and eastern Switzerland. In some cases, the entire ground floors of homes and businesses were filled with water. The experience forced the local authorities to come up with better ways of preventing future flood damage.
These days, Switzerland has much more detailed hazard mapsexternal link – which calculate the risk of flooding, rock- and landslides and avalanches. Federal and cantonal governments have also earmarked funds for mitigation initiatives.
This money has gone towards various measures, like pipelines being laid under vulnerable towns. Also, floodplains have been dug along the Aare River, which flows from Lake Thun and into the Swiss capital, Bern.
Switzerland experienced another “once-in-a-lifetime” flood in August 2005, affecting many of the same areas.