11 September 2008

Updates on the Cairo and Shaanxi landslides

Posted by Dave Petley

It is unusual to have two major stories running simultaneously about landslides so here is a combined update:

1. The Manshiet Nasser landslide in Cairo

The death toll in the Cairo landslide disaster continues to rise – it is now officially 69 people. There seems to be considerable confusion about how many people are left trapped – but is fair to say that there is now no hope of rescuing anyone alive. The magnitude of the task in terms of recovery is shown well by the picture above.

There is some discussion on the newswires about the causes, with several suggestions that sewage in the joints may have played a role. To me this is far from clear. There are also now suggestions that quarrying may have occurred on the rock face – this would be the first thing that I would look at if I was investigating the slide.

Meanwhile, there appears to be considerable political fall-out over both the government’s failure to recognise the threat posed by this slope (see here) and the slowness of the response. This has led the government to seal off the site. One wonders whether we will ever know the true toll of this event.

2. The Taoshi township flowslide in Shaaxi

The pictures emerging from the Taoshi township site continue to horrify. The official death toll is now 128, but there can be no hope of anyone else being found alive. Officials are now admitting that the number of missing people is “several hundred“. The debris flow was reportedly three stories high and 600 m wide when it hit an office building, a market and several houses. At the time the market was just starting and there was a meeting, attended by over 100 people, in the offices of the mine company. Only three people survived the meeting.

Again, the difficulties of recovering victims here may make it difficult to estimate the true impact of this event.