13 May 2020
A map of 2019 fatal landslides
One of my tasks during lock down has been to geolocate the 2019 fatal landslides. This is a non-trivial job given the number of events, and in many cases the ambiguity in terms of the reported locations in the news media. But it does allow the global and regional maps to be compiled.
Every dot represents a landslide that killed at least one person. All fatal landslides are depicted, including those triggered by rainfall, seismic activity, mining and construction. I have made this map available online. Please be careful with over-interpreting the locations when zoomed in. In many cases it is only possible to map the landslides within a few kilometres, so very detailed maps have low reliability.
For those who read my blog regularly, or who have read my papers, there is much about this map that is familiar – the huge concentration in Asia, and the clusters in Brazil and Colombia for example. The abnormal element in 2019 is the high concentration in East Africa. I have always recorded fatal landslides in this area, but 2019 saw far more than is usual. Unfortunately 2020 is continuing that pattern, driven once again by abnormally heavy rainfall.
It is interesting to examine the 2019 fatal landslides in South Asia, which remains the global hotspot for these events:-
The concentration of landslides along the southern edge of the Himalayas is clear, though Pakistan, India Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. There was a particularly large number in northeast Pakistan and in the Kashmir area of India, as well as the smaller concentration in the southwest of India. We are about to enter the 2020 summer monsoon season in South Asia, with forecasts of heavy rainfall in for example Sri Lanka. The pattern of monsoon induced disasters in 2020 is going to be complex, not least because of increased vulnerability as a result of Covid-19.
I have been pondering whether to post the full 2019 dataset online as a Google Sheet, in order to make the information available more widely and to allow people to provide better information. If you would find this useful then please let me know.
On reflection 1
National Geographic has a very interesting article about the discovery of the remains of people killed by a tsunami about 1000 years ago in Tanzania in East Africa. It is likely that this tsunami was triggered by a distant large earthquake. The underpinning research has been published in Geology.
On reflection 2
The Standard reports that another large landslide has occurred in West Pokot, Kenya, close to the landslides last month that caused extensive damage. This most recent event, at Solion in Muino, has rendered 40 families homeless.