24 January 2012

Breaking (with pictures) – very large landslide in Papua New Guinea

Posted by Dave Petley

At 6 am local time this morning (Tuesday) a very large landslide occurred in the Hides and Komo area of Papua New Guinea.  This area is currently the focus of an ExxonMobil project to build a LNG pipeline, although at the moment is really unclear as to whether the landslide is linked to this work.  However, there are news reports that local people may have been buried, with suggestions that there may be as many as 40 people missingIt appears that all those involved in the pipeline project are safe.

Surprisingly for such a recent event, ABC News has two very high quality images of the landslide.  The first of these seems to show the source area:

A couple of things to note.  First,, obviously, this is really big.  Second, looking at the area to the right side of the head scarp it appears that there has been some slope cutting in this area – indeed there may be a couple of tracks and suchlike.  I wonder why?  These tracks have been cut off by the margin of the slide, suggesting that the pre-failure morphology had been modified.   Second, towards the bottom of the image a road has been buried to a substantial depth.

The other image captures the downslope impact of the event:

The proximity of the houses suggests that there could well have been loss of inhabited areas.  Note the water flowing at the top of the image.

Unfortunately the images neither support nor refute suggestions that the pipeline works might have played a part in this.  I am sure that more information will become available in the next few hours.  The apparently dry conditions at the time of failure are quite perplexing.