22 August 2019

Reports of multiple fatal landslides in the Wenchuan area of China

Posted by Dave Petley

Reports of multiple fatal landslides in the Wenchuan area of China

Various news agencies in China are reporting multiple landslides triggered by extreme rainfall in the Wenchuan area, and adjacent regions, of China.  Xinhua has a fairly basic report, with some imagesMore detail is provided by a report by ECNS:

Nine people were killed and 35 were missing after multiple mudslides struck Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture in Sichuan province on Tuesday, local authorities said.

In Wenchuan itself, ECNS reports:

At least one firefighter was dead and three people were reported missing after multiple mudslides hit Wenchuan County, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, local authorities said.

Whilst Xinhua reports:

At least four people were dead and 11 were reported missing in Wenchuan County after multiple mudslides happened following heavy rainfall. Seven people were missing and 60 were trapped in Wolong special administrative zone in the county.

Gengda Township in Wolong appears to be singled out as having been badly affected, albeit little real detail is available as yet.  This image, via ECNS, is from Gengda township:-

Wenchuan landslide

The aftermath of a debris flow in Gengda township, Wenchuan. Image via ECNS, credit: LIU ZHONGJUN/FOR CHINA DAILY.


Meanwhile this image from ECNS shows the aftermath of a debris flow in Banquio village in Sichuan:-

Wenchuan landslide

An image of the aftermath of a debris flow in the Wenchuan area of China. Image via ECNS


This area was, of course, severely affected by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, with disastrous consequences.  The mountains have continued to be very seriously impacted by landslides since then, with significant losses occurring most years.  In a recent paper on this event, Fan et al. (2018) noted that:

Although the slope self-healing process (grain coarsening, consolidation, revegetation) does rebalance the rainfall threshold to that of a pre-earthquake level, the debris flow activity has not yet reached the pre-2008 background levels.

It appears that this situation continues.


Xuanmei Fan, C. Hsein Juang, Janusz Wasowski, Runqiu Huang, Qiang Xu, Gianvito Scaringi, Cees J. van Westen, Hans-Balder Havenith. 2018. What we have learned from the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake and its aftermath: A decade of research and challenges, Engineering Geology, 241, 25-32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enggeo.2018.05.004. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013795218307233)