27 July 2011

Devastating landslides in South Korea – and fears of more to come

Posted by Dave Petley

Update: don’t miss the video of the Seoul landslides here

Once again landslides are front page news on the BBC website, this time in relation to devastating events in South Korea today.  At the moment it appears that there have been two major events, and possibly a number of smaller ones too.


The two big landslides are:

1. Chuncheon in Gangwon Province

At Chuncheon it appears that a landslide struck several buildings, including a cabin in which ten college students were killed.  A married couple and a convenience store owner also died, and a further 24 people were injured.

2. Southern Seoul

In Southern Seoul another landslide killed 16 people when a set of residences were buried.


The images available from the two sites are not particularly informative at the moment.  As far as I can tell, this Reuters image shows the toe of the Chuncheon landslide:

This image suggests that this was a very mobile mudflow.

The Southern Seoul landslide is rather more enigmatic, but photoblog has an image that appears to show the residences:

This looks to have been a highly mobile mud / debris flow.  The damage is horrendous – note how high up the building the debris has penetrated.  The two workers in the mud in the lower left of the image provide a useful reference point.

Rainfall – and more to come

Newspaper reports suggest that South Korea is encountering exceptional rainfall.  Seoul received 400 mm of rainfall in 17 hours, on top of high rainfall in the preceding weeks.  Unfortunately more rainfall is forecast for the next 36 hours, with Seoul potentially receiving a further 250 mm.

So what of North Korea?

This rainfall may well have also affected North Korea, which has already been affected by flooding this month.  Unfortunately, given the denuded landscape, vulnerability is much higher there.  I wonder if we are missing the real story