Country profile

Bulgaria map Bulgaria is bordered by five countries: Romania to the north, along the Danube; Serbia and the Former “Jugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the west; and Greece and Turkey to the south. The Black Sea forms its entire eastern border. Geographically and climatically, Bulgaria is noted for its diversity, with a landscape ranging from the snow-capped peaks of Rila and Pirin in the south-west, and of the Balkan Mountains, to the mild and sunny weather of the Black Sea coast; from the typically continental Danubian Plain (ancient Moesia) in the north, to the strong Mediterranean influence in the valleys of Macedonia, and the lowlands in the southernmost parts of Thrace. Hilly country and plains are found in the south-east, along the Black Sea coast in the east, and along Bulgaria’s main river, the Danube, in the north. Other major rivers include the Struma and the Maritsa River in the south. There are around 260 glacial lakes situated in the Rila and Hrin mountains, several large lakes on the Black Sea coast, and more than 2,200 dam lakes. Bulgaria comprises portions of the classical regions of Thrace, Moesia and Macedonia. Bulgaria has a total surface area of 110,990 square kilometres, with a total population of 7,740,000. The population density is 70 people per square kilometre (World Bank 2005).

Bulgaria’s economy contracted dramatically after 1989, with the loss of the market of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) member states, to which the Bulgarian economy had been closely tied.

United Nations sanctions against “Yugoslavia and Iraq took a heavy toll on the Bulgarian economy. The first signs of recovery emerged in 1994, when the GDP grew and inflation declined.

Since 1997, the country has been on the path to recovery, with GDP growing at a 4-5 per cent rate, increasing FDI, macroeconomic stability and European Union membership.

Risk assessment

Bulgaria is more vulnerable to flood than to any other hazard. As per EM-DAT, floods comprised 30 per cent of the hazards in the country during the period 1974-2006. The Danube River borders the country all along the northern part, and is susceptible to floods that affect both Bulgaria and Romania. Windstorms contribute 16 per cent of hazards in the country. Occurrence of windstorm, extreme temperature, earthquake and transport accident are also high in the country. Figure 12 shows the percentage share of various hazards during the period 1974-2006. From the EM-DAT database, it is obvious that the total number of natural hazards is increasing over time. There is a steep rise in the number of events since 1999, and the last three-year period (2004-2006) recorded 10 events, an average of three events per year. Five technological hazards were recorded during this period; the data distribution is insufficient to analyse the trend. Hazard incidence shows flood is more frequent in the country, while more deaths were caused by technological (transport accident) hazards. The number of victims per event is high for flood and windstorm, showing the severity of these events compared to other hazards. EM-DAT reports four earthquake events during the 1974-2006 period. In addition, the Bulgarian Academy of Science’s seismological institute reported several minor tremors of magnitudes ranging from 3.5 to 5 on the Richter scale. As these events are with less-to-no loss or casualty, they are not included in EM-DAT These tremors show that the country is in a seismogenic zone and is vulnerable to earthquakes. According to the institute, 18 tremors hit the country from 5 April to 9 April 2002, with the city of Plovdiv being hardest hit. Plovdiv was also hit by a major earthquake on 14 April 1928, which killed 107 people. The earthquakes of 4 March 1977 affected Svishtov and Ruse (the northern part of Bulgaria), killing 20 people and injuring 165; and the 30 May 1990 earthquake of magnitude 6.7 in northern Bulgaria killed one person. The most damaging recent earthquake was the Strazhista 6 December 1986 earthquake; it had a magnitude of 5.7 (Pusch 2004) and killed 3 people, injured 60 and left 3,000 homeless in the Tymovo region. Though, from magnitude point of view, the 1986 earthquake event was small, the total loss exceeded USD 50 million (Pusch 2004).

Natural Hazards

Natural hazards One severe flood event which occurred in the country was the flood from 25 May to 12 August 2005, the worst flooding in the past 70 years. The rivers Mantra, Kamchiya, Rusenski Lorn and their subsidiary streams burst their banks (IFRC 2005). About 70 per cent of the territory of Bulgaria was affected. Losses were enormous in the affected 54,874 hectares of agriculture land, and about 10,599 animals drowned, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Some 3,645 inhabited buildings were declared unsuitable to live in, directly affecting 60,137 people. In 62 municipalities, there were 258 houses totally destroyed and 1,143 partially destroyed; 44 municipalities declared a state of emergency, and 164 municipalities were affected by the floods (Source: National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria). Reported damage from the 2005 flood was more than USD 260 million (EM-DAT 2007). Other flood events that took place in the recent past occurred on 10 April 2006, 10 August 2002 and 14 December 1997. Landslides are also common in Bulgaria because of its hilly and mountainous terrain. One major landslide occurred on 17 December 1965 in the Rila mountains, where 11 people were killed. Windstorms associated with cold waves occur quite frequently in Bulgaria. On 24 December 2001, a windstorm affected Shumen, Dobrich, Stara Zagora and Sofia, killing two people. The 1998 (November-December) cold waves affected the Montana and Sofia regions, killing three people, injuring 23 and affecting 300. The 8 March 1993 windstorm affected 5,000 people in the Silistra, Rousse and Plovdiv regions. Wildfiri events are also reported in Bulgaria. On 1 July 2000, wildfire affected Haskovo, Yambol, Bourgas, Stara Zagora and Plovdiv; killing seven people, injuring 17 and leaving 150 homeless; and causing damage worth USD 17.6 million (EM-DAT 2007). The Global Fire Monitoring Center reported an average numbe of 413 events, affecting an average area of 11,814 hectares, during the period 1978-2000 (Goldammer 2002). EM-DAT reports economic losses of USD 477 million due to flood and wind, with flood contributing the major share. The National Geophysical Data Center reports that the country has incurred a loss of USD 5 million due to earthquake during the last 33 years. This economic loss equals about 0.3 per cent of the country’s GDP (USD 14.76 million). The number of both deaths and victims has increased over the period, showing the increased vulnerability of the country to hazards. According to UNDP statistics, 600,943 people are exposed to flood and drought in the country. On average, about seven people were reported killed every year due to various hazards.


Bulgaria is more vulnerable to flood than to any other hazard. As the country has historic records of major earthquakes, there is a high probability of earthquake occurrence in the country. About 50 per cent of the geographic area of the country is used for agricultural activities, but this area contributes only 10 per cent o the national GDP This low contribution could be due to the higl vulnerability of the nation towards flood-related hazards. The Ministry of State Policy for Disasters and Accidents is responsible for all disaster risk management activities in the country. The country has crisis management legislation in place, which focuses on disaster response to protect the lives and assets of the country. Ministry priorities include performing coordination among organizations, preliminary risk assess- ments, unified planning, enforcing regulations and management. The country lacks a national disaster management plan. Taking into consideration the hazard intensities and vulnerability, the country needs to prepare a disaster risk management plan as part of preparedness and prevention. Considering its flood and landslide vulnerability, the country should initiate loss assessments, and develop a risk funding strategy for catastrophic events. The country needs to upgrade river regulation, flood protection infrastructure and its mechanisms for early warning. Initiatives towards transboundary cooperation, particularly for flood mitigation, need to be strengthened in coordination with Romania.