10 August 2009

A dreadful weekend of landslides

Posted by Dave Petley

The last few days have been a dreadful period for landslides. I really cannot cover all that has happened in enough detail, so all I can do is to outline the main events:

1. Rotorua rockfall, New Zealand
Actually the period started with a very lucky escape in New Zealand on Thursday when a rockfall on a slope under maintenance crushed a car with two passengers. Both were trapped but were extracted from the car with minimal injuries. Given the size of the blocks and the state of the car this is pretty remarkable image from here:

2. Shunhe township, Hanyuan county, Sichuan province, China
The large valley-blocking landslide in Hanyuan County also occurred on Thursday. This slide, which is reported here, is believed to have killed 31 people. The partial blockage of the river continues to cause problems:

3. Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
On Friday the Philippines was hit with very intense rainfall that appears to be from the outer edges of Typhoon Marakot, which hit Taiwan and then China. There were two disastrous landslides – in the first a lahar hit a tour group and their guides on the flanks of Mount Pinatubo, killing two locals and three tourists.

4. Kias, Baguio, Philippines
In the second incident, also on Friday, a landslide hit a group of miners at Kias, near to Baguio in the Philippines. A group who went to their rescue were then hit by a second landslide, killing 14 people in total.

5. Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand
On Saturday a large landslide occurred in northern India (see image below from here). The true impact of this is a little unclear, but the current estimate of loss of life appears to be 43 people. Thanks to David Hopkins for the heads-up on this one, and to Sekhar for the photo).

6. Typhoon Marakot, Taiwan
The true impact of Typhoon Marakot is far from clear, with reports of debris flows that might have killed hundreds. It is important to stress that these are unconfirmed, but with 2.4 m of rainfall in a weekend who knows? A slightly clearer report suggests that Taoyuan Village in the county of Kaohsiung was hit by a debris flow that killed 16. We will wait for the morning to see whether the reports of much higher loss of life are correct.