Aerial view of the region between Mittersill and Bramberg, Source: Land Salzburg / Franz Wieser

Mayors of alpine Oberpinzgau region in Austria calling for better flood protection

Mayors of alpine Oberpinzgau region in Austria calling for better flood protection

After years of ineffective anti-flood infrastructure, the time for major change is coming

After the recent floods in Austria, mayors in the Oberpinzgau region of Salzburg are calling for a better and more comprehensive flood protection system in the region. Today, Wolfgang Viertler, the Mayor of Mittersill, the capital of the region, criticised the current installations in the area.

Although the flood has not been nearly as devastating as in Germany and Belgium, the level of the Salzach river flowing through the region rose by about six meters, covering transport routes and the industrial area in Mittersill.

After every flood, the walls get higher, yet nothing seems to work

The municipality of Bramberg, for example, is semi-cut off, reachable through many detours and with a lot of difficulties. The local railway was impassible, submerged until yesterday. After the situation has been dealt with, a thorough examination of bridges and roads must be conducted to determine whether their load-bearing capacity has been damaged.

salzburg floodingRailway travel is impossible because the tracks are underwater,
Source: Land Salzburg / Franz Neumayr

The Mayor of Bramberg, Hannes Enzinger, painted a picture of the history of flooding in his municipality in the last 30 years. After the floods of 1987, the town set up flood protection, like the rest of the region. In 2005, there was a flood, and the protective structures were too small – as a result, they doubled them.

The next flood came in 2014, and again the protective structures were too small, so they doubled them again. In 2021, it seems the structures were insufficient yet again.  

“We cannot build in the sky,” Mayor Enzinger exclaimed, quoted by a report of the Austrian broadcasting agency, the ORF.

The current proposition of the local mayors is the creation of water retention areas in the side valleys, especially in those places where the water level is the highest.

The structural integrity of the transport routes has to be assessed,
Source: Land Salzburg/ Franz Neumayr

Relief measures are still underway, but what is going to happen after that?

In Mittersill, emergency services are still fighting to lower the water levels and mitigate as much damage to agricultural and industrial enterprises as well as the infrastructure. More than a dozen heavy pumps are operational between Uttendorf and Mittersill. Together, they can pump out 160,000 litres per minute, the equivalent of five swimming pools, leading to roads and rail lines being usable again.

At the same time, the flooding of the industrial zone has caused a leak of oil and other industrial pollutants, making clean-up a time consuming and difficult endeavour. The current estimate is that the anti-flood efforts will go on at least until the weekend.

The Oberpinzgau mayors are calling for an improvement in flood protection three days after the storm – a flood protection system that takes the whole region under consideration.

The Mayor of Mittersill stated that after a critical analysis of the damages and the condition of the current protection infrastructure, there would be much room for improvement.

At the same time, he stressed that the risk and the force of flash floods are getting bigger with every passing year.

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