Mitigating the Risk of Natural Disasters in Romania

September 18, 2012

Daniel Kozak, Communications Officer in the World Bank's Romania office, offers this story.

The facade of Bucharest's Sector One City Hall is pure neo-Romanian baroque, festooned with pillars and arches and flanked by an imposing tower. The inside is a feat of earthquake proof design and engineering.

The foundation of this massive building where thousands of couples have tied the knot has been reinforced. Hundreds of arches in this beloved landmark built between the two world wars have been fortified with concrete. These are among the techniques deployed to insure that city hall will fare well in a big earthquake. It's not an idle threat. In 1977, a quake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale killed 1,578 Romanians and destroyed 35,000 buildings, damaging many more. Large red circles painted on many of the capital's buildings after that earthquake notify people that they're unstable and remind them that this urban area of almost two million lies near a fault line.

" The building is reinforced to withstand a quake measuring 8 on the Richter scale "
Liviu Cismasu

Liviu Cismasu

"The building is reinforced to withstand a quake measuring 8 on the Richter scale," says Liviu Cismasu, who oversees the works to reinforce city hall, replace its roof and retrofit its interior. This structure and many others in Bucharest and around Romania, 40 in all, have been protected thanks to the Hazard Risk Management and Emergency Preparedness project supported by the World Bank.

Protecting people is at the heart of the project. The surgical and intensive care wing of the 125 year-old Children's Hospital also has a new foundation and reinforced walls thanks to the project. And it has new interiors, too. "Having a strong foundation reassures doctors and nurses," says intensive care chief surgeon Dr. Florin Rusu. "Having a nice atmosphere reassures patients and helps recovery," he adds.

" Having a strong foundation reassures doctors and nurses. Having a nice atmosphere reassures patients and helps recovery. "

Dr. Florin Rusu

Intensive care chief surgeon

Earthquakes are not the only natural hazards in this part of Europe. Floods are an all-too-frequent reality, too. That is why the project has repaired and improved the safety of six dams to insure they don't leak, crack, or worse, fail. It has protected riverbanks to ensure full rivers don't over flow.

The project rehabilitated mine facilities that contain pollutants left over after the valuable portion of what's being mined has been extracted. That reduced the risk of accidental spills that could contaminate the soil, air and water, harming human and aquatic life. A computer-based monitoring system tailored to mining operations was developed.

Strengthening institutional and technical capacity to manage disasters is part of the project, too. A management information system was developed to allow emergency responders to react quickly and efficiently to emergencies like earthquakes and floods. Emergency responders at Bucharest's crisis control center have been trained to use the software which will be rolled out in 48 locations around Romania in the near future.

The project supported the creation of a mandatory catastrophic insurance scheme that transfers the financial risk of a natural catastrophe away from citizens. It gave technical assistance for the development of a high resolution flood and earthquake risk model and for a dynamic financial analysis model for the establishment of a Pool for Insurance against Disasters. And it supported the development of norms and regulations for the implementation of a law mandating insurance of dwellings.


A pilot project improved the management and safety of mine tailings to reduce the risk of accidents in the Tisza Basin. 

World Bank