Disaster damages and losses have been increasing in recent decades, highlighting the need to learn from past events. Only a better understanding of the fundamental causes of disasters and their impacts on society can lead to effective prevention and reduction of disaster risk. In this context, disaster forensics focuses on the analysis and interaction of risk factors (i.e., hazard, exposure and vulnerability) and the identification of underlying causes, in order to tackle them through dedicated action. In this work, we explore the results of disaster forensics through a case study of subsequent floods in 2002 and 2013 in the city of Grimma, Saxony, in Germany. Risk factors are investigated to identify their contribution in increasing or reducing disaster damage, in conjunction with socio-economic impacts in the mostly affected inner city of Grimma. In particular, we analyze (i) what data is needed to conduct a disaster forensic analysis and (ii) how much the sequential application of disaster forensics contributes to a better understanding of risk and the identification of the causes of disasters impacts. The analysis shows that the sequential approach for disaster forensics is key for understanding cause–effect relationships regarding socio-economic impacts.
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