Extreme climate events, such as flooding, continue to escalate worldwide, posing severe threats to communities and ecosystems. 

In September 2023, ten countries and territories were ravaged by severe flooding, marking a relentless series of extreme weather events in a span of less than two weeks. The onslaught commenced with a typhoon causing widespread destruction in Hong Kong. Libya suffered devastating floods, resulting in a tragic loss of over 11,000 lives, as reported by the UN. Additionally, Europe endured one of its worst storms, impacting countries such as Greece, Spain and Bulgaria, while heavy rainfall wreaked havoc in the Americas. The condensed timeframe of these events underscores the intensifying severity of climate-related disasters across the globe.

Climate change has started to affect us in more tangible and directly consequential ways than we are used to. This has forced governments, businesses and media to acknowledge the growing problems at hand. However, even if sufficient action is taken that prevents us from an environmental tipping point, reversing the changes that have already occurred will take considerable time. Much like the frequently used analogy of a cargo ship doing a U-turn. 

The effects of climate change that we are currently witnessing will continue to worsen, even as we slow down their rate of change, until we eventually begin to reverse them. Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to prepare for the worst effects of climate change and not become complacent, as it is something that we will likely still have to live with for decades to come. 

This involves continuing to invest in fit-for-purpose infrastructure and taking appropriate and calculated measures to ensure that both people and the built environment are protected. These measures should be capable of withstanding extreme weather events and the accompanying debris and safety issues for people and watercraft they bring with them.

Unprecedented floods in Europe

Over the course of the 2013-2014 winter, the United Kingdom saw unprecedented levels of rainfall during severe storms, which caused widespread flooding and resulting power cuts and major disruptions to transport services across the country. During this time, the Met Office reported the wettest December 1 to January 31 period since 1876, while other local authorities said that the winter period from the beginning of December to the end of February was the wettest recorded in the UK since records began in 1766.

Consequently, the floods caused by this severe weather were amongst the worst to have ever impacted the UK, with large-scale damage caused in counties such as Somerset, Devon, Dorset, and Cornwall in the south-west, and the Thames Valley in the south-east. The Thames Valley was among the hardest hit, with as many as 14 severe flood warnings issued along the river’s course and water levels so high that parks along the banks of the Thames were completely submerged.

Of course, there is no one silver bullet solution that could have prevented the extensive damage and costs that were incurred during these floods or prevented the loss of lives. To be adequately prepared for extreme weather events, all the right boxes must be ticked to prevent the chain of damage that occurs and life-threatening risk that is created, and ideally prevent problems at the source.

For example, during the 2013-14 devastating flooding in the UK, Ecocoast had previously installed over 400 Bolina Rope Safety Boom units in the Thames. These booms played a crucial role in protecting critical flood control infrastructure. According to officials, they effectively diverted rapidly oncoming large debris, such as tree logs and branches, mitigating potential damage by redirecting them into a low-risk and easily clearable area. 

Importantly, these booms are not only designed for environmental protection but also intended to serve as life-saving equipment. Their structure permits two people per float to climb onto the boom without requiring a ladder. Moreover, the attached rope enables them to safely navigate to shore without assistance. This multipurpose functionality makes the boom an invaluable asset, offering crucial support along rivers during severe weather events. 

Remarkably, among the several hundred units installed at that time, no maintenance or replacements were necessary, despite facing nearly unprecedented conditions. Even today, these units remain in position along the River Thames, demonstrating their enduring reliability.

Another example is the River Trent. Notorious for its perilous flooding during storms, the third’s longest river in the UK has frequently altered its course, leading to significant damage to lives and properties along its banks.

Aside from its unpredictable behavior, the river’s path includes numerous canals, weirs and locks, posing hazards for boats and other river traffic navigating its waters.

To ensure safety for river traffic, the installation of Bolina Watercraft Safety Boom units has been pivotal. These safety booms have successfully safeguarded various watercraft, from houseboats to narrow boats and barges, rescuing them from potential damage or loss. These interventions have proven critical, particularly when boaters lose control of their watercraft, inadvertently navigating into hazardous zones along the river.

Spain boasts similar areas requiring protective measures. An illustration of this is the installation of Bolina Log Screen Boom units in Galicia, Spain, during 2020. These booms were implemented to safeguard the San Esteban hydroelectric complex, situated in a region known for its remarkably high average rainfall – among the highest in the country. Serving as a flood management solution, these booms were strategically positioned to prevent debris from obstructing the dam gates, ensuring the unimpeded functioning of the hydroelectric complex.

Having equipment that works when it most needs to, that is reliable, and that provides peace of mind, is invaluable in desperate times. Investing in high-quality, durable equipment and infrastructure is an essential aspect of a successful long-term strategy, particularly at a time when the behaviour of our climate is becoming increasingly uncertain. 

Working with partners whose products have been tried and tested, whether that be in the real world or in simulated circumstances, is the first step to ensuring that you and the people whose lives and properties you are responsible for are protected. 

Bolina Ltd has changed its name to Ecocoast Ltd as part of a strategic rebranding initiative, designed to enhance the company’s offering and better reflect it’s expanded scope. For more information, please visit https://www.ecocoast.com