Flood fatalities in Australia, 1788-1996

Lucinda Coates*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Citations (Scopus)


Information on fatalities from flooding in Australia has been compiled from newspapers, historical accounts, and government and scientific reports. Records covering 1788 to 1996 indicate that at least 2213 persons have been killed in floods in Australia. The overall decadal death rate has decreased from 23.98 per 100 000 population in the 1800s to 0.04 per 100 000 in the 1990s. The greatest number of fatalities has occurred in New South Wales but, taking population into account, Queensland has been the most vulnerable state historically as, more recently, has been the Northern Territory. Most fatalities have occurred during February, and amongst males (80.6 per cent). The overall male:female death and death-rate ratios are both 4:1. Whereas the male:female death-rate ratio has fluctuated over time from 10:1 to 1:1, it does not approach equality. Most fatalities (38.5 per cent) have occurred through attempts to cross creeks, bridges or roads in times of flood. Another 31.5 per cent of victims were in houses-the majority awaiting rescue, or simply unaware of the flood. Of the total known deaths, work-related fatalities have accounted for 12.4 per cent, and recreational pursuits for 5.7 per cent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-408
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian Geographer
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1999


  • Australia
  • Flood fatalities
  • Mortality statistics
  • Natural disasters
  • Vulnerability


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