So far the highest water level in Budapest was recorded in 1838. At the time the flood reached 9.3 meters and caused the greatest damage in the history of the Hungarian capital.
The winter of 1837-38 proved to be one of the hardest in several decades. The Danube froze to its bottom in several regions, even at the edge of Csepel Island. The ice became as hard as a wall made of concrete and did not let the flow of the river go further down.
On march 13th the water level reached its highest ever. At 9 PM the strength and power of the flood broke through the dam along Vörösmarty tér and covered the town of Pest almost immediately. The bells began to toll and the people started to flee – though this only meant they tried to climb on the roofs of their houses. In many sections of Pest the inhabitants couldn’t even start rescuing their pets, the water was so rapidly getting higher and higher.
The rescue began the next day, the inhabitants and the mayoralty did not believe the water would break through the fortified embankments. The height of these fortifications reached up to the level of the largest known flood, that occured in 1775, but they weren’t strong enough to hold the weight of the water. Rescue was organized on dinghies, taking the victims to higher ground, to upper floors or attics of larger buildings. Over 50 000 people lost their homes, churches, universities, libraries and museums filled up with refugees immediately.
The damages caused by the flood in Pest were devastating: 2281 houses collapsed, 151 people died, the damages in the movables could not even be assessed. Most of Pest was demolished.