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Department of Natural Hazards
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Factsheet: Natural Hazards in the Alps
In the past 500 years the population in alpine regions has increased, especially in tourist areas and urban regions, from 3.1 to 13.9 million people. With this increase in population comes an increase in infrastructures threatened by natural hazards in settlement areas and greater importance of the road and railway networks. In Austria, around 35,000 buildings and 1,500 kilometres of traffic routes are threatened by torrents. Avalanches are especially a threat in settlements in the inner alpine valleys, where large-scale avalanches often reach the valley floor. Altogether 58 percent of the area of Austria (83,855 km²) are intensive zones of protection from alpine natural hazards, which in many alpine valleys secures the livelihood of rural areas.

Focus on torrent protection

Around two thirds of the national area fall under the care of the Austrian Service for Torrent and Avalanche Control. Around 70 million euro is provided annually by the federal government for from natural disaster funds for protection from torrents, avalanches and erosion. Together with contributions from the regional authorities and interested parties (municipalities, water cooperatives and others), a total of nearly 122 million euro is made available annually. The majority (74 percent) goes into torrent protection; the remainder is divided amongst avalanche protection, surface management measures (protection forests, management of catchment areas), and measures for protection from rock fall and landslides.

The number of incidents of torrent and avalanche damage has decreased over the last decades, which can be attributed to intensive research work and numerous active and passive protection measures.


BFW survey the condition of constructions


Avalanche models support the dimensioning of contructions

Risk field mapping of mudflows are recommended by BFW

BFW explores hazard procedures and provides bases for decision making

Maintenance instead of new construction

During the past few decades intensive structures were constructed, which now need strategic maintenance.

Risk and hazard assessment

Hazard Zone Plans and surface management plans as land-use planning tools should be extended. Already in the planning-phase the value of the damage and not the scale of the event needs to be taken into account.

Combination of measures instead of purely technical construction

In the future, combination of measures with the best cost to risk ratio will become more important.

New technologies

In the future, modern simulation tools and flying devices with digital cameras which support the work, documentation and structure analysis will be important. Practically relevant apps will also be used.


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