Development of a hazard risk map for assessing pedestrian risk in urban flash floods: A case study in Cúcuta, Colombia

Gerald Augusto Corzo Perez*, Diego Ivan Sanchez Tapiero*, Manuel Antonio Contreras Martínez, Chris Zevenbergen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The rapid growth of impervious areas in urban basins worldwide has increased the number of impermeable surfaces in cities, leading to severe flooding and significant economic losses for civilians. This trend highlights the urgent need for methodologies that assess flood hazards and specifically address the direct impact on pedestrians, which is often overlooked in traditional flood hazard analyses. This study aims to evaluate a methodology for assessing the risk to pedestrians from hydrodynamic forces during urban floods, with a specific focus on Cúcuta, Colombia. The methodology couples research outcomes from other studies on the impact of floodwaters on individuals of different ages and sizes with 1D/2D hydrological modeling. Advanced computational algorithms for image recognition were used to measure water levels at 5-s intervals on November 6, 2020, using drones for digital elevation model data collection. In Cúcuta, where flood risk is high and drainage infrastructure is limited, the PCSWMM (Computer-based Urban Stormwater Management Model) was calibrated and validated to simulate extreme flood events. The model incorporated urban infrastructure details and geomorphological parameters of Cúcuta's urban basin. Four return periods (5, 10, 50, 100), with extreme rainfall of 3 h, were used to estimate the variability of the risk map. The output of the model was analyzed, and an integrated and time-varying comparison of the results was done. Results show that the regions of high-water depth and high velocity could vary significantly along the duration of the different extreme events. Also, from 5 to 100 years return period, the percentage of area at risk increased from 9.6% to 16.6%. The pedestrian sensitivity appears much higher than the increase in velocities or water depth individually. This study identified medium to high-risk locations, which are dynamic in time. We can conclude dynamics are spatiotemporal, and the added information layer of pedestrians brings vulnerability information that is also dynamic. Areas of immediate concern in Cúcuta can enhance pedestrian safety during flash flood events. The spatiotemporal variation of patterns requires further studies to map trajectories and sequences that machine learning models could capture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-23
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • hazard and risk mapping
  • pedestrian risk
  • urban flood


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