11 July 2013

Monsoon mayhem in Central China

Posted by Dave Petley

Over the last few days Central China has been experiencing exceptionally heavy monsoon rainfall, causing very high levels of damage.  The TRMM data for landslide potential for the last seven days of rainfall highlights the areas considered likely to be affected by landslides (and note that there are also substantial parts of N. India and Nepal that are experiencing problems:

13_07 TRMM China


Unfortunately, the worst of the rainfall appears to have affected the areas struck by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province.  This is a zone that remains very vulnerable to landslides because of the legacy of the seismic even, compounded by inappropriate development in the rush to rebuild after the earthquake.  The effects have been disastrous.  The largest impact to date is the landslide  at Sanxi in the area administered by Dujiangyan City, which is reported to have killed 12 people whilst a further 11 are missing, with very limited chances of survival.  The landslide is reportedly very large, with a travel distance of 2 km and a volume of 1.5 million cubic metres.

Elsewhere in this region landslides are causing substantial issues, and it is surprising that there have not been more fatalities.  For example, the earthquake-devastated town of Beichuan was reportedly flooded once againXinhua has a set of images of landslide damage elsewhere across the Beichuan and Wenchuan regions, including these:

13_07 Beichuan 1

13_07 Beichuan 2

13_07 Beichuan 3


13_07 Beichuan 4


In some cases the damage from these events looks to be very serious, causing long term disruption.  Unfortunately, with the rainy season only just starting, there may be more to come.  Finally, Typhoon Soulik is likely to make landfall over SW China in the next 48 hours, bringing exceptional levels of rainfall to areas within a few hundreds of kilometres of the coast:

13_07 Soulik 1

Whilst it is unlikely that the rainfall from this event will affect Sichuan, it is likely to cause serious damage and disruption to this other part of China.