1 March 2011
Very interesting (and large) landslide in La Paz, Bolivia
Posted by Dave Petley
Bolivia has been suffering from a period of very wet weather for several weeks now, inducing floods and landslides over large areas of the country. In the capital La Paz this has triggered a very large, but fortunately slow, landslide that jas reportedly destroyed 400 or more houses. There is a good AP video of the landslide on Youtube, which should be visible below:
There is also a good video here (although please ignore the rather odd text at the start and the even more bizarre comments on the Youtube page.
The AGU blogsite currently has a technical problem that means that I cannot post images, but there is an excellent but appalling set of photographs of the event here. The landslide is both very large and apparently deep seated. I would very much like to see an aerial shot of the site before and after the landslide to try to work out the mechanism. It is quite intriguing.
I’m a Brit who has lived in LP for morethan 20 years, below is acircular I sent recently on this landslide
Land slides in La Paz
I must say I was gratified by the level of concern shown by all my friends about my safety, I assume that you all thought that bad news travels quickly…
For those that know LP the major land slide area is up the Irpavi river, from the centre head down the Kantutani, when you gat to Calacoto hang a left up towards Chaskipampa and the first valley on the left, go past the military school, through Irpavi Bajo onto Irpavi Dos and on the left, that big slope that goes up to the back of San Antonio Alto which you usually get to via Miraflores then up the hill to San Antonio.
A big slope, probably 500 to 700 meters high, mostly more than 45º, at the top the poor overspill from San Antonio, but we are talking a 15 year old barrio, so that there are 3 and 4 story buildings and mud huts. I remember going to the top some 15 years ago when it was a fresh barrio, still rural. At the bottom there are luxury houses, expensive school, a big galpon with some sort of industry. A lot of the slope was still agriculture, despite its relatively central position it was always obviously an unstable place to build.
What has been lucky is how slowly the hillside fell down, everyone had time to get out, a lot lost possessions particularly those living at the top. Something like 5000 families lost their homes. Massive chunks of hillside slid down with seemingly intact houses on them, and the earth movement is still going on. A friend lives nearby, in Chicani on the “good” side of the valley, and visiting him a couple of times over the last week I´ve seen more houses are collapsing slowly, I particularly noticed a big modern school that had escaped the worst on the first visit, on the second visit a week later it had all fallen down, along with a luxury house next door and other buildings nearby. The slide actually crossed the river but fortunately later, so there was heavy machinery on hand to clear the dam before too much water accumulated upstream. At the top of the slide you can see the bottoms of houses which are due to fall.
The emergency housing seems to be fairly well in hand, there are several encampments of all sorts of tents, soup kitchens etc. Even cows have been rescued and are happily munching on the grass along the roadsides. Without any real knowledge I would say that the rescue services are coping reasonably well. There is lots of machinery busy moving earth, but all they can really do is wait until the hillside decides that its comfortable where it is thanks.
The rains continue, Rurrenabaque had some tremendous floods, according to friends the worst since the plaza first flooded in 97. Rayes and Riberalta is now getting it, in a week or two it will have totally covered the Beni.
Ah well, safe as houses as they say.
Love to you all