10 July 2013

Losses from the Uttarakhand landslide disaster

Posted by Dave Petley

It is now over three weeks since the landslide disaster in Uttarakhand.  An unusual aspect of this disaster is the degree of uncertainty of the magnitude of the losses, with estimates from politicians for example ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 people.  Finally though, it does seem that some element of clarity is emerging.  Thus, the NGO Actionaid is reported to have determined the toll to be over 5,000 people.  On the other hand, the Vice-Chairman of the National Disaster Management Agency reportedly said yesterday that their estimate is over 4,000 people, but that as many as 11,600 may be missing according to the UN.  It does now seem likely that the toll will be at least 3,975 as these named people will be officially declared dead tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the difficulties of arranging the relief efforts continue.  Incredibly, some of the stranded pilgrims are only just being rescued – for example, a group of 52 people were rescued today from Gunji, and there are reports that as many as 500 people remain stranded. The major issue continues to be that of landslides, which have both blocked and undermined roads.  There is a nice report here about the effects of these landslides, which are proving very hard to manage. Indeed, a 74 member rescue team sent to Kedarnath became stranded, running out of food and succumbing to illness before being rescued yesterday.

The NRSC has produced a map of landslides in the Kedarnath area, which is a very interesting tool.  I have shown the landslides at Kedarnath itself previously, but here they are highlighted properly on Bhuvan:

13_07 Kedarnath Bhuvan 1


However, it is not just this valley that has been so seriously affected.  This is one further to the east, which also suffered a very large scale landslide event:

13_07 Kedarnath Bhuvan 2..