In the UK, the Thames Flood Barrier was closed just four times in the 1980’s, 35 times in the 1990’s, and more than 80 times from 2000 to 2010, while nationally 2013 was a record year for flood warnings, and many parts of the country have just had the wettest January since records began.
Across the world, a United Nations report said the number of natural disasters had quintupled over four decades, attributing most of the increase to what it called ‘hydro-meteorological’ events, while the giant reinsurance company, Munich Re, calculated that 2011 was the costliest year in history for natural disasters.
Over the centuries, floods have been the natural disaster most likely to afflict humanity, but a joint report from the United Nations and the African Development Bank in 2011 warned they were set to ‘increase both in frequency and intensity.’ And according to the Asian Development Bank, in 2010 and 2011 alone, they had helped to drive more than 40 million people from their homes.
My new book Flood: Nature and Culture (Reaktion Books ISBN 978 1 78023 196 9.) tells the story of the floods that have brought chaos to Britain and many parts of the world over the last few years, and examines the evidence that things are getting worse.
Flood also includes chapters on the deadliest floods in history, how some of the most ambitious structures ever built by humans have been erected to protect against flooding, how flood myths appear in religions all over the world, and how floods have been portrayed in literature, art and films.
*How a south-east London newspaper series has reported on my book - http://www.newsshopper.co.uk/news/11004502.January_was_wettest_month_on_record__but_flooding_is_nothing_new_for_London/