7 February 2020
Zaldibar: a major garbage dump landslide in Spain yesterday
On 6 February 2020 at about 4 pm local time a significant landslide occurred in the Ermua landfill at Zaldibar in the Basque region of Spain. The landslide traveled over a distance of about 330 m and inundated the major AP-8 highway below. It appears that two people may have been killed. El Diaro Vasco has an excellent gallery of images of this landslide, which includes this view taken from overhead:-
Initial estimates put the volume of the landslide at about 4,000 cubic metres, with a width of about 30 metres.
Reports suggest that the two missing people are both reported to be workers at the dump. At the time of writing it is not clear as to their status, but reports this morning (7 February 2020) suggest that to date they have not been rescued, although some potential sites to search have been identified by search and rescue dogs. Clearance operations are underway to reopen the road.
The location of the landslide is 43.17, -2.50. There is a Google Earth image of the site dated August 2018 that shows work underway on the tip on the side of the slope that failed:-
The Google Earth image archive appears to show the Zaldibar site being prepared for the dumping of waste in 2011, with emplacement of garbage being underway in the image collected in August 2014.
Garbage dump landslides are a known hazard, and in the past they have caused substantial loss of life, but usually in countries with poor management of waste. A major garbage dump landslide in a European country is unusual.
Such landslides pose particular challenges for search and rescue due to the nature of the materials involved and the risks to the rescuers.