24 February 2017
Ponzano di Civitella del Tronto: a highly destructive landslide in Italy
There has been a little bit of coverage in the media in the last few days of a highly destructive landslide occurring at Ponzano di Civitella del Tronto, in the Abruzzo region of Italy. This landslide, which is reportedly moving at about one metre per day for almost two weeks, has led to the permanent evacuation of about 35 houses, meaning that about 120 people have been relocated. The landslide is beautifully captured in this image from Blue Heart Planet:
This area has been subject to earthquakes in recent months, which may have played a role in the instability. However, reports suggest that this is the reactivation of an ancient landslide, with the movement being induced by rapid snow melt in the last few weeks. My sense that this is a pre-existing, but until now inactive, landslide is probably correct. This is the same area as the image above from Google Earth, dated from last year:
The head scarp of the ancient landslide can be seen just above the road that runs across the image, a quarter of the way down the image from the top. Note that there is another, larger, landslide head scarp to the right of this, with the two landslide bodies apparently merging on the slopes below so as to be indistinguishable. It is unclear to me as to whether the movement is occurring across all of this area, or just on the left-most landslide mass. There is high quality drone footage of the landslide available on Youtube that shows the magnitude of the damage to properties in the town as well the wider deformation. This footage was apparently captured by the local fire and rescue service:
Sadly, there is unlikely to be much that can be done to manage a landslide of this type and of this scale in the short term.