11 January 2013

At least 18 killed in a landslide in China

Posted by Dave Petley

Chinese News agencies are reporting that a landslide overnight buried 16 households in Gaopo Village of Zhenxiong County, in Yunnan Province, China.  Whilst estimates vary as to the number of known fatalities, CRIEnglish reports 18 confirmed deaths from a total of 40 people buried in the landslide.  On the other hand, China Daily is reporting  16 deaths and 37 people unaccounted for, so it seems inevitable that the fatality count will rise further.

The timing of this event looks interesting and perhaps surprising.  The images of the landslide seem to show a thin covering of quite fresh snow, which is not an obvious condition for landslide triggering.  The overview image, shown below, is also interesting:


Judging by this image, the landslide was a reasonably rapid flow consisting mainly of mud and soil rather than bedrock:


Whilst it is too early to know for certain, I wonder if even the overview image above might be just the lower portion of a rather larger landslide somewhere in the hills upstream of the village, although I remain confused by the apparent small failure in a bluff on the far right of the first image.  This does not on first inspection seem large enough to be the source of this landslide, unless there was a huge amount of entrainment (picking up of debris) along the way.  It is all quite strange – an aerial image would be very interesting.