26 June 2013

Images of landslides from Uttarakhand

Posted by dr-dave

The death toll from the Kedarnath debris flows continues to rise, with 127 bodies being found yesterday alone, bringing the total there to about 600 and the overall total across Uttarakhand to 822.  The total number killed across northern India continues to be uncertain, with estimates ranging from 1000 to 5000.  The uncertainly may well be primarily because so many victims are buried in debris. Continued heavy rains are hampering the rescue efforts, and there were reports yesterday that two further people died in landslides.  In addition, a rescue helicopter crashed close to Kedarnath, killing all 20 people on board.

The lack of coherent information from the government continues to amaze me, especially when compared with the clarity of data that is produced in similar situations in other poor countries, most notably the Philippines.  Take a look at the Indian National Disaster Management Agency web page – as far as I can see it provides no useful information about this event other than the control room telephone numbers.  The NDRRMC in the Philippines in contrast shows how this can and should be done.  The website of the DMMC in Uttarakhand is a little better than its national equivalent, but still lacks detailed information.  Sadly, this lack of clarity will be adding to the stress for those involved, and for their relatives.

What is emerging slowly is a better understanding of what has happened beyond Uttarakhand.  It is clear that landslides have been triggered across a very wide area.  The next valley to the east of Kedarnath shows this very clearly – this is the Landsat 8 image of that area (the same images as I used in my post yesterday), showing the multiple small debris flow gulleys:

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The following images have also appeared in various news reports and on Twitter.  Interestingly, there is a vast range of landslide types represented.  These first three images were taken from an Indian Air Force helicopter and are on the Flickr site of Shivaroor:

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This image is on the Twitter feed of Ushinor Majumdar.  The caption is: “Ndrf, army warn flood survivors of falling rocks in landslide zone during Uttarakhand evac”:

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Finally, this image from the Deccan Chronicle shows some of the challenges that the landslides are posing to the rescue and recovery efforts:

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There are also some videos that supposedly show the landslides in action, but at least some of these seem to be relabeled examples from early events.