12 January 2017

Volcan, Argentina: massive mudflows cause major disruption

Posted by dr-dave

Volcan, Argentina: massive mudflows cause major disruption

Heavy rainfall in the extreme northwest of Argentina, close to the border with Chile, has caused major mudflows over the last few days.  Whilst the focus in the media has been on the disruption to the Dakar Rally, the impact on local people has been far more serious, especially in the town of Volcan.  Two fatalities have been reported.

Reuters has a nice image of the level of destruction caused by one of the landslides, which has affected the margins of the town:

Volcan

One of the landslides on the margin of the town of Volcan in Argentina, via Reuters

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Meanwhile AP has a view from a different perspective:

Volcan

The level of damage caused by the landslides at Volcan in Argentina, via AP

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The AP report indicates that there were at least two major landslides, affecting the towns of Volcan and Tumbaya, which lies a little to the north.  These appear to be highly mobile mudflows in very fine-grained materials, similar to lahars.  There is a major volcanic province reasonabley close to this area of the Andes, but I have not been able to ascertain whether this region consists of volcanic deposits (the name of the town is of course interesting in this respect).  About 1000 people have needed to be relocated.

A quick view of the Google Earth imagery for this area suggests that these are not the first landslides to affect Volcan by any means:

Volcan

Google earth imagery of the town of Volcan.  Note north is to the right of the image.

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There are some pretty interesting landslides in this image.  The event of the last few days appears to have come down to the valley to the north of the town (on the right side in the image above). The location of the town makes it vulnerable to these high mobility flows.