15 October 2015

Karachi rockfall: a human-induced tragedy?

Posted by Dave Petley

Karachi rockfall

On Tuesday a rockfall occurred in a slum at Block 1 of the Gulistan-e-Jauhar area on the outskirts of Karachi, in Sindh Province, Pakistan.  The landslide buried three small houses, crushing them completely and killing 13 people, including seven children.   The National has a gallery of images showing the site of the landslide, including this one:

Karachi landslide via the National

Karachi landslide via the National


A daytime image, also from the National, indicates what happened in Karachi:

Karachi landslide

Karachi landslide via the National


It is clear that  the toe of the slope has been extensively cut by a mechanical excavator – note the vertical scratches.  The upper part of the slope has not been cut – I would guess that it was too high for the excavator to reach – leaving a large overhang.  To the side of the landslide scar is a vertical joint that probably played a role in releasing the blocks.  Note that the next section of the cliff, directly above the rescue workers, is highly dangerous.  Thus, the indications are that this is a human-induced disaster.

Geo TV provides more information about the slope cutting:

Most land plots in the hilly area of Block 1 of Gulistan-e-Jauhar where the disaster occurred, measure 400 sq yards.  The possible reason for the incident could be the attempt to increase the plots size to 800 sq yards.  The process involved digging into the hill at its base, leading to its collapse, and a consequent landslide.  Geologist, University of Karachi, Shamim Sheikh said the incident took place as a result of the digging into the hill at its base.

The plot where the incident occurred actually belongs to Ayaz Soomro, who is presently a member of Sindh Assembly and a leader of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).  Ayaz, son of Khuda Bakhsh Soomro, had received the plot number 64/13 in 1995.

Note that in the adjacent plot, visible in the first image above, the slope has been reinforced.