4 February 2016

Landslides near Muzaffarabad from the 2005 Kashmir earthquake

Posted by dr-dave

Landslides near Muzaffarabad from the 2005 Kashmir earthquake

The M=7.6 2005 Kashmir earthquake in northern Pakistan is thought to have killed over 80,000 people (and most likely over 100,000), and left 3.5 million people homeless.  A key factor in the impact of this earthquake was the devastating effect of many thousands of landslides.  One of the most seriously affected areas was Muzaffarabad – the city itself was very seriously damaged by the shaking, and there was also a huge impact of landslides in the local area.  Google Earth now has very high quality imagery of the area before and after the earthquake, and a further set collected more recently (in 2014), almost a decade after the event.  This is an image of one of the most seriously affected areas before the earthquake, taken in 2002:

Muzaffarabad

Google Earth imagery of the Muzaffarabad area in 2002, before the 2005 earthquake

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The river that runs north – south across the image is the Neelum.  On the southern edge of the image the main part of the city of Muzaffarabad is clearly visible.  There are landslides in the image, most notably along the Neelum and on the walls of some of the smaller channels.  Contrast this with an image of the area after the October 2005 earthquake – this image was collected on 31st June 2006.  Note that the green area on the right is the pre-earthquake image:-

Muzaffarabad

Google Earth imagery from 2006 showing the dramatic increase in the amount of landslides triggered by the 2005 earthquake

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The most dramatic area of landsliding is the huge cliff collapse events that occurred on the east bank of the river to the north of the city (and note how much the city had expended in the few years prior to the earthquake), but there is also dramatic landsliding along the Neelum river, to the east of Muzaffarabad and along the river to the northwest.  I took photographs of some of the landslides at the time.  This is the area of massive rock cliff collapse to the east of the city:-

Muzaffarabad

Massive rockslope failure to the east of Muzaffarabad

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Whilst this some of the landslides on the Neelum River.  This area was extremely badly affected my shallow rockslope failures:

Muzaffarabad

Extensive shallow rockslides along the Neelum River

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Landslides are one of the enduring legacies of an earthquake in a mountain chain.  This Google Earth image was collected in April 2014.  It is heartening to see reconstruction in the city, but note just how obvious the landslides are, and many are very obviously fresh failures.  A decade on it is clear that earthquake induced landslide remain a major issue in the Muzaffarabad area:

Muzaffarabad

Google Earth imagery of the Muzaffarabad area, collected in 2014