17 May 2015

Reports of a massive ice – rock avalanche in Akto County, Xinjiang, China?

Posted by Dave Petley

A massive ice – rock avalanche in Akto County, Xinjiang, China?

The Chinese new agency Xinhua has some rather vague reports this morning of a massive “glacier collapse” in Akto County, Xinjiang, China.  The reports in the English version are somewhat hard to interpret:

A huge body of glacier has collapsed in China’s Xinjiang, burying more than 100 cattle, crushing dozens of houses and damaging 1,000 hectares of grassland, local government said on Saturday.  No casualties has been reported in the Kongur Tiube glacier slide that occurred in the Akto County of the Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture. About 60 families were evacuated after the 20-kilometer-long and one- kilometer-wide glacier devoured their land.

But a catastrophic collapse that generated a slide 20 km long and one kilometre wide is likely to be an ice – rock avalanche, or perhaps a more conventional landslide.  IFENG has a more detailed report in Chinese, suggesting that the volume of the collapse might be 500 million cubic metres, and that the deposit is 20 – 50 m think.  If so this is a truly enormous event.  This report includes an image, but it is far from clear what this represents:



The IFENG report also includes a video, but again it is unclear what this is showing.  It does include a sequence from which this still is taken:


This could be an ice-rock avalanche deposit perhaps?

This is the Google Earth image of the area affected of Akto County by this landslide:-

Akto County

Google Earth image of Kongar Tiube


This area is in the far northwest of China, near to the border with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, so it is very unlikely that this event is associated with the Nepal earthquake sequence.  Does anyone have any further information on this landslide?  It appears to be a very unusual and interesting event.