5 March 2009

Karst landslide in China

Posted by Dave Petley

Xinhua is reporting a landslide in Jinjiling Hill in Guilin, Guangxi yesterday that buried several houses and killed four people. Whilst in global terms the event was not huge, the images that Xinhua have published are quite interesting:

Xinhua describes the event thus: “…several hundred tonnes of rocks and dirt gushed down from the mountain at about 9:20 p.m. Wednesday. Four workers in charge of a cave-digging project in the hill, the project contractor and his wife were in the houses when the accident took place, the city’s public security bureau said. Jiang Mingyi, head of the city’s geological environment monitoring station, said ongoing rain over the past few days triggered the landslide and the local karst-landform is prone to mountain collapse in the rainy season.”

It would be easy to ascribe this collapse to the caving digging work that was going on at the toe of the slope. However, the failure appears to have occurred on an unfavourably orientated joint high up on the slope. The initial collapse was possibly quite small, but the failure has accrued debris on the way down to create quite a large failure. Thus, the interpretation that the failure was rainfall-induced looks spot on.

Of course, what is not clear is the degree to which the work at the toe of the slope disturbed the joints upslope. If blasting was being used this is of course quite possible.