25 March 2020

Fatal landslides in 2019

Posted by Dave Petley

Fatal landslides in 2019

The slowdown in daily activity caused by the Covid-19 crisis, and the cancellation of my planned trip to GNS Science in New Zealand last week, has provided the opportunity to complete the analysis of the fatal landslide database for 2019.  Regular readers will know that this is a dataset that I’ve been collecting since September 2002, and which has formed the basis of a number of research publications (Petley 2012 and Froude and Petley 2018) for example, as well as many posts to this blog.  The ways in which I collect this data are described in detail in the papers (Froude and Petley 2018 is open access).

The final statistics look like this:

  • Number of non-seismic fatal landslides: 463
  • Number of non-seismic landslide fatalities: 3270

In addition, I recorded 14 landslides triggered by earthquakes, with 27 fatalities, but this is undoubtedly a significant underestimate in both respects.

The graph below shows the cumulative total number of fatal landslides through 2019:-

Fatal landslides in 2019

The cumulative total number of fatal landslides (black line, right hand axis), and the resultant fatalities (grey line, left hand axis), for 2019.


I have delineated the most intense period of the summer monsoon in Asia with the vertical black lines – during this time the number of landslides increases dramatically.  As usual the fatality data is much more noisy, dominated by a comparatively small number of large events, such as the Brumadinho tailings dam failure in Brazil.  The graph shows that the Asian monsoon remains the dominant factor in determining the total number of landslides in a given year; outside of the summer monsoon landslides occur at a steady (but increasing) rate.

In terms of the number of fatal landslides, 2019 was the third worst in my dataset.  The record is still 2010 with 496 fatal landslides, whilst second place is held by 2009 with 488.  The average is 382 fatal landslides per year.

On first inspection the higher number in 2019 was possibly a consequence of:

  1. A higher than normal incidence of monsoon induced landslides;
  2. The continuing rise in landslides associated with mining;
  3. A much higher than normal incidence of fatal landslides in Africa.

I will need to undertake more work to verify these hypotheses.


Froude, M. J. and Petley, D. N. 2018. Global fatal landslide occurrence from 2004 to 2016. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 18, 2161-2181, https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-18-2161-2018.

Petley, D.N. 2012. Global patterns of loss of life from landslides. Geology 40 (10), 927-930.