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At Least 1 Dead After Heavy Rain in Austria

About 5.5 inches of rain fell over seven hours, a meteorologist said, swamping villages in the southern part of the country.

Flooding damage in Treffen, a town in southern Austria, on Wednesday.
Credit…Gert Eggenberger/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
June 29, 2022, 11:26 a.m. ET

At least one person was dead and another was missing on Wednesday after heavy thunderstorms lashed villages in southern Austria overnight, with record rainfall that pushed rivers over their banks and cut off some communities from recovery efforts.

The storms rolled in overnight from Italy and Slovenia, along Austria’s southern border, said Michael Tiefgraber, a meteorologist with Austria’s national weather service, the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics. About 5.5 inches (nearly 14 centimeters) of rain fell over seven hours before tapering off about 9 a.m. local time, he said.

A river near Arriach, a village with about 1,500 people, overflowed in several sections, and the road leading out of the village was completely destroyed in several places, ORF, the national broadcaster, reported. A hydropower station just outside of Arriach was “severely damaged,” its operator said.

At least one death was reported, in the nearby village of Treffen, where the fire department said the body of an 82-year-old man was found after he was swept away by the floods.

ORF reported that the Pöllinger Bach, which is normally a creek, had torn through Treffen, bringing with it rubble, tree trunks and “several meters” of mud. One hundred soldiers from the Austrian army were on the scene with heavy machinery, helping to clean up.

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Credit…Gert Eggenberger/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It was a record for the most rain to fall in a single event in the Austrian state of Carinthia, said Gerhard Hohenwarter, a meteorologist. The previous record, set in June 1969, was 4.2 inches over a 20-hour period, he said.

The region has experienced has unusually high temperatures in June, Mr. Hohenwarter said.

“Warmer air can capture more humidity than dry air, and then you need the perfect setting to let it go,” he said. “Now, these thunderstorms are really very severe and very strong.”

While it is not possible to immediately draw a connection between one heavy downpour and climate change, scientists may try to do that by undertaking what is known as an attribution study in the coming weeks or months.

Last year, after deadly summer floods hit Germany and Belgium, scientists found that the record rainfall that led to the flooding was a 400-year event, meaning that in any given year, there was a 1-in-400 chance of such a downpour occurring in the region.

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The analysis showed that, while rare, such an event was 1.2 to 9 times more likely now than it would have been more than a century ago because of emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activity.

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Credit…Gert Eggenberger/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Christine Hauser reported from London, and Christopher F. Schuetze from Berlin.

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