14 September 2012

Landslides kill at least 19 (and probably many more) in Northern India (with images)

Posted by Dave Petley

The S. asian summer monsoon typically starts to withdraw in early September.  This year, once again, this withdrawal is late (the seventh year in a row that this has happened).  The result has been a late bite in the tail with a burst of heavy rainfall affecting the northern areas, especially the Himalayan province of Uttarakhand.  Across in Darjeeling landslides have also been occurring – the Save the Hills blog has a description of their impacts, which includes some good photographs.  Fortunately there have been no reported fatalities.  That is not the case back in Uttarakhand, where heavy landslides overnight yesterday are reported to have killed at least 19 people.  The worst affected area seems to be the Rudraprayag area, where 14 people are reported to have been killed and it is estimated that 25 to 30 people remain buried.  It is also reported that five people were killed in Bageshwar.

Within India some news reports suggest higher losses, but this is unconfirmed.  Zee News for example is reporting that 33 bodies have been recovered, and a further 35 people are missing.  It is notable that just as with the other (lower totalled) reports these figures are attributed to Piyush Rautela, who is the  Executive Director of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Department.  It may well be that this is a later and more reliable figure.

Climate Himalaya have sent a team to the site and have posted a series of very impressive photographs of the disaster.  They are reporting 68 deaths, with many more people still buried.

The image above appears to show a very mobile flow type event.  On intial inspection this might have initiated as a quite small slide in colluvium high on the slope, with lots of entrainment of debris.  Note the water flowing into the scar on the left side, and the apparently quite deep, wedge-shaped scar on the lower portion.  Finally, there are several buried houses at the foot of the slope and on the left side, supporting the idea that there may have been many fatalities