11 June 2012

A possible earthquake triggered landslide in Afghanistan

Posted by Dave Petley

This morning there were two small earthquakes in Afghanistan.  According to the USGS, the first was M=5.4 at 49 km depth, and the second was M=5.7 at 33 km.  That puts the epicentres on the edge of the Hindu Kush mountains as shown in the Google Earth images below:

Neither of these events would normally be expected to cause substantial damage, given their size and depth, but Afghanistan is desperately poor and highly vulnerable to the effects of earthquakes.  In addition, the landscape is landslide-prone during seismic events.  So, reports that there may have been an earthquake triggered landslide with multiple casualties are not that surprising.  As I type (in a slightly jetlagged state having just got off my plane from Canada), most reports seem to indicate that a landslide occurred in the Saya Zara area.  This BBC report is typical, indicating that the landslide buried about 20 houses, and that there have been casualties.  Other reports provide more detail, indicating that the affected area was the village of Dara Azara, and that about 70 people have been buried.

Clearly at the moment details are somewhat sketchy, but should become clearer in the next few hours.