22 January 2017
Nanzhang County, Hubei: 12 killed as a hotel is crushed by a rockslope failure
On Friday night a major rockslope failure occurred on a steep slope behind the Mirage Hotel in the Haishishenlou holiday village, in Nanzhang County, Hubei, China. The hotel was crushed; 12 people, including the owner, were killed in the dining room. There were three survivors (whilst two of the victims died after being rescued). Xinhua reports today that the remains of all of the victims have been recovered.
Based on the above this appears to be a massive rockslope failure – reports suggest 3000 cubic metres – that has fallen directly onto the building. The reports suggest that the largest blocks were 150 tonnes, but I would suspect based on the image that this may be an underestimate.
The slope behind the hotel is interesting. Whilst the scar of the rockfall is not clear from this image – the blocks may have come from higher up the slope – the vertical discontinuities (joints) in the mass are clear both immediately behind the hotel and in the adjacent slopes. These provide a ready-made release surface for the rockfall. We would normally expect that a good site investigation would be able to determine the hazard posed by these joints, but I cannot comment on what happened here.
Interestingly, there is no suggestion of a trigger in the news reports, although the images of the rescuers do suggest that they are dressing for cold (but possibly not very cold) weather. The reports also indicate that there were real concerns about the potential for further failures on the slope.