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Tens of thousands of buildings impacted by European floods, says ICEYE

21st July 2021 - Author: Luke Gallin

Analysis from ICEYE, who builds and operates its own commercial constellation of SAR satellites, shows that a minimum of 43,400 buildings across Europe are estimated to have been impacted by recent flooding in the region.

germany flooding

Altenahr, Germany, Monday, July 19, 2021 (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)

ICEYE operates a constellation of synthetic aperture radar satellites and through its Flood Monitoring Solution, offers insurers and reinsurers with near real-time flood extent and depth data at the building level within 24 hours of a flood event.

Following the recent and devastating flooding across parts of Central and Western Europe, the company has produced some analysis which focuses on almost 30 of the most significantly impacted population centers.

The total area covered with ICEYE radar satellite imaging stands at more than 90,000km2 and the total flood/water extent analysed totals 183km2.

To come to its findings, ICEYE combined SAR imagery with numerous auxiliary data sets, such as aerial imagery, open-source images, river/tidal gauge data, watersheds, and digital elevation models. The team then performed a rapid analysis of the flood extent and depth for the most affected regions, including level of depth for individual buildings.

According to the data, upwards of 43,400 buildings in total will have been impacted by the flooding.

Of this, 27,400 are in Belgium; 9,300 in Germany; 3,100 in Luxembourg; 1,750 in the Netherlands; and 850 are in France.

ICEYE notes that early indications suggest that this figure will rise in Germany, while totals in other regions could also differ while the company’s analysis continues.

Across the regions, ICEYE estimates that 19,900 of the minimum buildings impacted experienced low flood water levels, with 16,000 experiencing medium levels and 7,500 high flood water levels.

It seems practical to imagine that the higher the flood water level the greater the damage, and therefore the greater the average claim is likely to be. Although, this might not always be the case as industrial buildings, for example, could be closed for weeks after experiencing low levels of flood water, which in turn could lead to business interruption claims.

Of the six countries ICEYE monitored for flood development over the course of the recent flooding, Belgium is estimated to have the highest number of buildings that experienced high flood depth levels, at 3,600. Also in Belgium, 9,300 buildings are estimated to have experienced medium levels, and 14,500 low levels.

In Germany, the figures are 2,900 low, 3,900 medium and 2,500 high. For Luxembourg it’s 1,600 low, 1,300 medium and 200 high. In the Netherlands, the low figure stands at 800, medium at 800 and high at 150. Finally, in France, the figures are 400 low, 350 medium and 100 high.

Nathan Uhlenbrock, Solutions Architect, ICEYE, commented: “The extreme rainfall over large parts of Europe has resulted in extensive flooding in several countries, causing numerous fatalities and extensive property damage. The ICEYE flood monitoring team identified the potential for a significant flooding event in the region five days before the flooding commenced, as the weather models and our flood forecast data indicated heavy rain, over a relatively short period of time, and on top of already-saturated ground.

“Once the potential flooding event was identified, we created plans to capture extensive synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery of the areas most likely to be impacted: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Switzerland. To date on this flood event, we have imaged and analyzed an area of more than 90,000 km2.

“By overlaying our flood extent and depth data with building footprints from governmental and open data sources, we have established a preliminary figure for the minimum number of buildings impacted in each of the severely affected countries.”

For the re/insurance industry, ICEYE’s data is valuable as it helps the market understand the potential impacts of a flood event quickly.

Considering the average flood insurance claim to residential properties seems to settle somewhere between USD 40,000 to USD 70,000 (based on data from the US, UK, and Germany), and ICEYE estimates that a minimum of 43,400 buildings are believed to have been impacted by the floods at some level, current industry loss estimates of €2.5 billion to €5 billion seem reasonable.

Charles Blanchet, VP Solutions, ICEYE, said: “By providing high-resolution, accurate, and consistent flood extent and depth data, ICEYE enables insurers, reinsurers, and brokers to rapidly generate accurate loss estimates for the flood-impacted regions and allocate capital in response.

“By providing this data within 24 hours from the high water mark, we enable insurers to reach out to impacted customers, deploy field resources effectively, and process claims faster and more efficiently immediately after the event.”

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