25 June 2017
Xinmo: the massive landslide in Sichuan Province yesterday
At about 5:45 am local time on Saturday 24th June 2017 a massive landslide struck the small village of Xinmo in Maoxian County, Sichuan Province in China, burying about 62 homes. On Sunday the Chinese authorities released a list of 118 people believed to be missing in addition to the 15 victims who have been recovered to date. Three people were rescued soon after the landslide, although the three year old daughter of the family is missing.
Images published by Xinhua suggest that this was a very large rockslide. The local geological survey have suggested that it was about 8 million cubic metres. The area was suffering from torrential rain at the time of the landslide, so this is being widely cited as the most likely trigger. The prospects for recovering anyone else alive look exceptionally slim:
The one mercy at this site is that the river does not appear to be blocked.
Wikipedia has a good article on the landslide online already, which helpfully identifies the location as 32.0663, 103.6504. Below is the Google Earth image of the site. Xinmo is the small settlement in the centre of the image at the foot of the slope:-
Based upon this, the landslide yesterday is not the first failure on this slope, and indeed it may not have been the largest given the two scars that appear to extend to the ridgeline (one is under the shadow of the cloud in the image above, the other just to the right of this).
Sichuan Province is exceptionally landslide prone, and of course it was also affected by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and many earlier events. However, the epicentre the Wenchuan earthquake itself was about 50 km away from Xinmo, so the aftermath of shaking from this event was unlikely to have been a factor.