29 April 2020
West Pokot: channelised debris flows killed up to 40 people in Kenya on 18 April 2020
The team at the new Hazmapper tool have tweeted about a set of major landslides that occurred in the West Pokot area of Kenya on 18 April 2020. Reports about the impact of these landslides, which primarily hit the villages of Kipchumwa and Chesegon, vary, but The Star reports that 29 people have been confirmed to have been killed and a further 20 are missing. Reports also suggest that 18 people were injured and a further 4000 have been displaced. The location, as identified by the Hazmapper team, is 1.28°, 35.61°.
As such, this is the most serious landslide event worldwide of the year to date, although as we move into May and the development of intense rainfall across Asia, this will surely be beaten soon.
Images in the media suggest that these were channelised debris flows originating from slips high on the hillsides. The image below, published in khusoko.com, provides an overview of the situation:-
The team at Hazmapper have started the process of mapping these landslides, although this is difficult given the high occurrence of cloud cover in this area. Planet Labs have an image that shows well a part of the landslide sequence at West Pokot though:-
The image shows several channelised flows, in many cases originating from multiple smaller channels high on the hillslopes. It is clear that these flows have spilled out of the channels on the lower slopes, which would explain the high casualty rate. To be caught in such an event is almost unimaginably horrific.
West Pokot is no stranger to these events. Late last year I posted about another set of landslides in this area, on 28-29 November 2019, which killed an estimated 50 people.
In the last year I have recorded far more fatal landslides across Africa than has been the case in the past.
Planet Team (2020). Planet Application Program Interface: In Space for Life on Earth. San Francisco, CA. https://www.planet.com/