13 January 2010

Initial reports of landslides induced by the Haiti earthquake

Posted by Dave Petley

It is inevitable that the Haiti earthquake will have triggered landslides, especially in the mountains and in the slum areas built onto the hillsides around the large cities. At present it is not possible to quantify how large these impacts will have been, but some reports are starting to emerge:

The BBC live coverage has this report:
Emmet Murphy, Jacmel, Haiti, emails:I was driving through the mountains when the car started to shake. It was like a very strong wind was blowing and I nearly lost control of the car. Rocks started falling on the road. I continued driving slowly and I saw people in the road screaming. The mountain was collapsing and a building to one side had already fallen down. A huge dust plume raised from the valley floor. I drove further and found the road totally blocked by a massive landslide on the road. I just knew that if I had reached that spot five minutes earlier, I would have been killed. I had to abandon the car and continue on foot.
Meanwhile, this blog from Bermuda is reporting that: “Slum areas have also been badly hit by landslides.”

As well as a rather peculiar earthquake prediction, HaitiXchange has this picture of the slums around Port-au-Prince, the capital city, before the earthquake, which graphically illustrates the likely problem in this area:

Meanwhile this extraordinary Youtube video shows the aftermath of the earthquake from a vantage point high above the city. Again, the height of the hills is an indication of the likely landslide problems, but the major point here is the dust pall across the city, thrown up by collapsing buildings:

Finally, as per my earlier post, the lack of news from areas outside Port-au-Prince is a very major worry. I am sure that the picture there is very serious indeed.

On a personal note, I am in New Zealand so cannot be contacted in my office. My mobile number is +44 7983 702717. It will be on for the next few days if you need to contact me.