People Vulnerability to Damaging Hydrogeological Events in a Mediterranean region

Olga Petrucci, Luigi Aceto, Angela Aurora Pasqua, 2018, People Vulnerability to Damaging Hydrogeological Events in a Mediterranean region, 11th HyMeX workshop, Lecce, 29 May - 2 June 2018,

Background: Damaging Hydrogeological Events (DHEs) are severe weather periods during which floods, landslides, lightning, windstorms, hail or storm surges can harm people. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency/intensity of DHEs and, consequently, the potential harm to people. Method_ We investigated the impacts of DHEs on people in Calabria (Italy) over 37 years (1980-2016). Data on 7288 people physically affected by DHEs were gathered from the systematic analysis of regional newspapers and collected in the database named PEOPLE. The damage was codified in three severity levels as follows_ fatalities (people who were killed), injured (people who suffered physical harm) and involved (people who were present at the place where an accident occurred but survived and were not harmed). During the study period, we recorded 68 fatalities, 566 injured and 6654 people involved in the events. Results_ Males were more frequently killed, injured and involved than females, and females who suffered fatalities were older than males who suffered fatalities, perhaps indicating that younger females tended to be more cautious than same-aged males, while older females showed an intrinsic greater vulnerability. Involved people were younger than injured people and fatalities, suggesting that younger people show greater promptness in reacting to dangerous situations. Floods caused the majority of the fatalities, injured and involved people, followed by landslides. Lightning was the most dangerous phenomenon, and it affected a relatively low number of people, killing 11.63% of them and causing injuries to 37.2%. Fatalities and injuries mainly occurred outdoors, largely along roads. In contrast, people indoors, essentially in public or private buildings, were more frequently involved without suffering harm. Being "dragged by water/mud" and "surrounded by water/mud", respectively, represented the two extremes of dynamic dangerousness. The dragging effect of rapid-flowing water totally or partially obstructed the attempts of people to save their lives. In contrast, people surrounded by steady water/mud encountered difficulties but ultimately could survive. Conclusions_ The study outcomes can be used in informational campaigns to increase risk awareness among both administrators and citizens and to improve community resilience, particularly in promoting self-protective behaviors and avoiding the underestimation of hazardous situations.

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