On the early Friday morning, July 11, in the town of Siechnice lying in the close vicinity of
Wrocław, water from the two rivers Oder and Olawa broke through their enbankments and
flooded the town. Water then rushed in the direction of Wrocław submerging the village
Radwanice on its way. The culminating wave reached Wrocław in the evening of July 12. By the morning of the next day a significant part of the city was under water.
Thanks to the determination of Wrocław inhabitants who built dams of earth and stacked
sandbags around the seriously endangered Cathedral Isle and Sand Isle, numerous
historical buildings and priceless monuments of European culture were saved.
In many Wrocław subdivisions 2-3 meter-high water totally cut off the residents from the rest
of the city. Pontoons, and in extreme cases helicopters, became the only means of
communication. The biggest flood in the history of Wrocław paralysed the city. The water
supply system didn't work for three weeks. The two water producing plants, which supply
water to over 650 000 inhabitants, were flooded. The system of sewage pumps was
devastated, and in many parts of Wrocław the sewage welled up creating a threat of
epidemic. The electricity was cut as the power plants had been partly destroyed. Most of the main supply stations had been flooded, as had 550 transformer stations. Telecommunication in the city was also paralysed: 36000 subscribers and 18 exchanges had been cut off. The main communication lines were cut, and the city was divided into three parts, each functioning independently during the flood. The majority of the bridges and viaducts were not accessible and transit transport was not being allowed into Wrocław. Passing through the city from north to south along the only communication road took six hours. The trams were not running. However, the buses have been saved thanks to parking them in the higher parts of the city. Water flowing through the city damaged many public buildings, among them four hospitals with medical equipment.
In all, the flood covered 30% of the city and over 150 000 of its inhabitants were directly
affected. Thousands of homes were damaged. Many houses collapsed because their
structure had been disturbed. Many more will have to be demolished in the nearest future.
In the areas of Wroclaw flooded previously, the residents are cleaning up and reparing. In
some areas the building foundations are severely washed up threatening with building
collapse. Closed to traffic is Ruska street, one of the busier downtown roadways, ground
erosion has undermined to near collapse one of the buildings near a major parking lot. In
Szczytnicki Park, water is still standing in the Japanese garden, which was most recently
renovated at great expense, and is now is irreparably damaged. Large number of children
were dispatched out of the city thanks to generous assistance from private people and
companies from across Poland, who were willing to arrange for the children's stay away from their flooded city. Technical and humanitarian help continues to arrive from all corners. The most useful pieces of kit have become portable water pumps. Slowly the daily lives of Wroclaw's inhabitants hint at returning back to normal, in spite of the difficult circumstances. Residents of many flooded villages however, are far more affected by this flood tragedy, and their lives will take far longer to rebuild. In many instances, flood waters there do not recede, and there is no way of pumping it out, especially when there is 2 m (7 ft.) of it in many places. Many trees are dying.
Wrocław has never experienced a peace time disaster of such an overwhelming scale. Such an accident is very unusual in this region, so we were totally not prepared to fight with
Quick, preliminary summary of the Flood 1997 in Poland:
5.5 billion PLN (zl) is the estimate of national damages to property. In the summary, the
balance of losses in human and material terms is as follows:
It was determined the 55 people are confirmed dead, 162,000 others have been evacuated
from their homes, of those 46,000 have NOT yet returned to their residences.
The waters flooded 1,358 towns and villages, 670,000 hectares (1,655,604 acres) of land
including 400,000 hectares (988,420 acres) of farming land and 46,000 homes and
At some point the flood waters covered 3172 km (1971 mi) of roads, and 1999 km of rail lines,
damaging 87 railway stations and depots, and 480 bridges. Four (4) companies that are
traded on Warsaw Stock Exchange, along with 116 state enterprises and several hundred
private firms have found their premises damaged by the water on slough - their losses to
property and business are estimated at 3.5 billion PLN (zl).
Water tides engulfed and flooded 100,000 automobiles, 56 sewage plants and 13 trash dump facilities.
Independent analysts estimated damage caused by the flooding at between five and 7.5
billion zlotys ($1.5-$2.3 billion), equivalent to 1.2-1.7 percent of gross domestic products.
The analysts of the GUS-PAN and NOBE institutes said in a report published in the
Rzeczpospolita Daily that the flooding would slow down Poland's economic growth to
between five and 5.4 percent of GDP in 1997 from the six percent forecast arlier.