This blog provides a commentary on landslide events occurring worldwide, including the landslides themselves, latest research, and conferences and meetings. The blog is written on a personal basis by Dave Petley, who is the Wilson Professor of Hazard and Risk in the Department of Geography at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

This blog is a personal project that does not seek to represent Durham University.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Catching up - recent landslide events

The next few posts will be an attempt to catch up on the things that I missed whilst on vacation in Switzerland last week.  Thanks to the many people who have tipped me off about landslide events.  I will cover Pakistan in another post.

1. A large flow in Austria
Thanks to Martin Springer for highlighting this one.  On Saturday 21st August a severe storm triggered a 100,000 cubic metre flow in the Karwendel Nature Reserve.  Fortunately no-one was killed, but a dozen cars are trapped in a car park.  It will take two months to clear the debris.  There is a short video of the deposit and further details about the landslide (in German) here.

Read more by clicking below:

Friday, 27 August 2010

Amazing new rockfall video from Yosemite

Thanks to Greg Stock for bringing this one to my attention.  Yosemite National Park have produced a video providing information for visitors about the hazards associated with rockfalls.  It includes an extraordinary piece of footage - captured by a visitor to the park - of a rockfall detaching from the cliff, fragmenting on impact on the the slope, and then travelling down the talus slope.  The video of the detachment event is fantastic - I have never seen anything as good.  However, the rest of the video is great as well, and will be very valuable to those trying to provide improved awareness rockfalls in many environments.  The video should be viewable below (click on read more to see the rest of the post):

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Hunza debris flow video

You probably guessed that I am on holiday this week (normal service will be resumed at the weekend), but I thought I'd quickly post this new debris flow video from Hunza in Pakistan. The interesting but starts at about 1 minute 15 seconds:

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

New pictures of Attabad

Many thanks to David Butz, who is a Professor of Human Geography at Brock University in Canada, for sending to me a set of photographs of the situation at Attabad.  David was there about eleven days ago, when the boat service was still running (it has now ceased due to a lack of fuel).  David has kindly allowed me to post some pictures here - note however that he retains ownership and copyright of them.

The dam from from downstream (click on "read more" to get the remainder of the post):

Pakistan flood update: the Kirthar Canal

The floods in Pakistan continue to extend to new areas, increasing the magnitude of the impact on a daily basis.  The PakMet hydrographs continue to show increasing flow levels.  At Guddu the discharge is still rising, and is now close to the peak level reached in the first flood wave (click on "read more" to reveal the rest of this post):

Monday, 16 August 2010

Where on Google Earth 211 (updated with result)

There is a long running competition in the Geoblogosphere called "Where on Google Earth" (WOGE), which essentially challenges readers to identify locations pictured on Google Earth imagery.   The last was WOGE (number 210), hosted by Meta-Geologist; I was the lucky winner.  The winner gains the right to choose and host the next one, so here it is:

The rules of Where on Google Earth are that to win you must post in a comment the location of the image (lat, long), together with a brief description of the reason for its geological interest. The prize is the right to produce and host the next one.  You will be unsurprised to hear that the site in question contains a landslide - in this case very a large one.

RESULT: Both Christoph and Jorge were correct in the location.  There is indeed an ancient, cubic kilometre scale rock avalancke deposit in the valley, and upstream there are extensive lake deposits.  On the basis of this, I declare Jorge the winner, who now gets the right to set the next one.


The rapidly developing flood crisis in Pakistan: 16th August 2010

The flood crisis in Pakistan continues to develop with a surprising pace.  In an earlier post I suggested that this event might be Pakistan's equivalent of Hurricane Katrina (i.e. a wake-up call for effective disaster management), but now it is starting to look more like the equivalent of the Haiti Earthquake - i.e. an event that is so catastrophic that the coping capacity of the state is exceeded.  There is clearly now a need for a huge international response effort.

The PakMet FFD hydrograph data continue to plot the progress or otherwise of the flood waves downstream.  Most of the the first flood wave continues to be trapped between Guddu and Kotri.  The Kotri hydrograph continues to show alarmingly low discharge values (click read more below to see the remainder of this post):

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Pakistan flood update - 15th August 2010

The second flood wave is now starting to affect the most devastated areas of Sindh.  The PakMet FFD hydrograph for Guddu has started to show an increase in discharge once again:

Saturday, 14 August 2010

An extraordinary year for landslides in China

This morning has brought further reports of heavy rain and consequent landslides in China, with more downpours forecast for the next few days.  Meanwhile the recovery operations for the Shouqu landslide continue, marked by a national day of mourning for the victims.  Note that the cost of the landslide at Shouqu is now reported to be 1239 people, with 505 still missing. 

The landslides in China this year are interesting for both their frequency and their intensity.  On average China has the largest number of fatal landslides of any country in the world, but this year has been particularly serious.  Based upon the database of fatal landslides that I have been maintaining for the last 8 years, the graph below shows the cumulative recorded number of non-seismic landslides that resulted in fatalities for the last five years in China.  The x-axis is the day number in the year (i.e. 1st January = 1; 31st December = 365).

Friday, 13 August 2010

Update on China and Pakistan - 13th August 2010

1. The Gansu landslide in China
The rescue operations in Gansu have now clearly transitioned into a recovery and rehabilitation phase, greatly hampered by continuing very heavy rainfall in the area.  Landslides are continuing to occur in the area, with resultant casualties.

Tom Dijkstra of Loughborough University visited the site as part of a trip to look at collaborative landslide research in the area back in November.  He has kindly sent two images of the town to me and has agreed that I can put them online.  This image shows the area affected by the landslide from the other side of the river.  The steep, deforested mountains in the background are clearly the source of the flow:

The second image shows the catchment source of the flow:

It is worth comparing the above image with this AP picture that I posted a few days ago of the site after the flow:

The reasons for the very high loss of life, now estimated to be 1,144 people, with a further 600 still missing, are clear given the density of buildings in the affected area.

2. Pakistan
The two flood waves in Pakistan continue to cause extreme levels of suffering.  According to the FFD hydrographs the water level at Sukkur is now falling slowly after the passage of the first flood wave:

What has been particularly interesting though is that the flood level is not really increasing substantially at Kotri, the large gauging station downstream:

This presumably means one of two things.  First, it could be that the water is finding another route - i.e. that it is bypassing the gauging station.  Alternatively, the water is in effect trapped between the two sites, which might explain the very slow falling limb of the hydrograph.  The Google Earth satellite image below shows Kotri:

It is possible that the water has flooded the adjacent land, but the news reports indicate that this is not the case, with the suggestion that the bridges downstream of Sukkur are slowing the flow down.  This is dangerous in the context of the second flood wave, which at the moment remains smaller than the first.  This is the hydrograph for Taunsa, which is just below the "Extremely High" flood level:

At Guddu the discharge is still falling, but only very slowly.  Indeed the discharge remains well above the "Exceptionally High" level:

The danger must be that the second flood wave starts to catch up with, and build upon, the stalled first wave.  This would create the potential for an extremely damaging second phase of floods.  It took six days for the first wave to pass from Taunsa to Guddu, and a further day to Sukkur.  The hope must be that the water level starts to fall quickly at these two sites before the second wave arrives.

Unfortunately, it is clear that this slow motion disaster has several more weeks to go, even if there is no further heavy rain.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Update on the disasters in China and Pakistan: 11th August 2010

Apologies for the tardiness of this update - it has been a busy day!  First a heads-up, I will write a post to go on the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience blog on these disasters in the context of climate change in the next couple of days.  I will signpost the piece here when it is ready.

1. Pakistan
The sheer magnitude of the disaster in Pakistan is difficult to comprehend.  Unfortunately the true horror of this event is probably remaining hidden; the real impact will come when the water levels in the south subside to leave polluted water wells, destroyed homes and wrecked crops.  The legacy of this disaster will be long-lasting, and will have a profound impact on Pakistan and elsewhere.

Starting in the north, heavy rain continues to wreak havoc, and the Pamir Times appears to be the only outlet from which a really good idea of the true impact can be gained.  In Gilgit-Baltistan the population is isolated by the blockage of the Hunza river to the north, preventing supplies from China, and the loss of bridges and the road to the south, leaving the population in dire need.  Electricity, water, food and medicine are in short supply.  Meanwhile, the Pamir Times is also reporting a disaster at Diamir, caused by the failure of another landslide dam.  They report at least 50 fatalities and 300 houses washed away.  Assuming that the report is correct, expect this to make the news tomorrow as word seeps out.  One hopes that the toll does not increase further, but I am fearful that this is likely.

To the south, the media has cottoned onto the fact that there is a second wave heading down the Indus now, an issue that I have been highlighting since the weekend. quotes the meteorological service in warning of floods in the northern regions of the Pakistan plains.  This second wave is now generating a substantial flood at Chashma:

Fortunately it is not as large as the first wave, but is still only just below the "extremely high" category.  In the context of already damaged infrastructure, the potential for further destruction is clear.

Downstream at Guddu the hydrograph is falling very slowly, but remains far above the extremely high flood level:

Whilst at Sukkur the hydrograph remains saturated, meaning that the true level is hard to judge:

Unfortunately the first flood still has some way to go before discharging to the sea.  The Pakistan Flood Forecasting division must be praised for the brevity of their weather forecasts.  Tomorrow's forecast says:

Several people have asked about a good NGO to whom donations could be made.  In this blog I have worked extensively with Focus Humanitarian Assistance, who specialise in providing help to people's affected by disasters, and who did undeniably wonderful work in Pakistan in the aftermath of the Attabad crisis.  As part of the Aga Khan Development Network I believe that they are a safe and honorable NGO, and they remain my preferred partner for work in Pakistan.

2. China
Once again the death toll from the Zhouqu landslide in Gansu has jumped, with Xinhua reporting a total of 1,117 fatalities and a further 627 people still missing.  The struggle to breach the partial barrier formed by the landslide across the barrier is intense, with the use of explosives to try to break the blockage.  Concern is rising in the light of continued poor weather in the area, with thunderstorms occurring today and heavy rains forecast for the next two days.  Meanwhile, there is a fascinating level of honesty in the Chinese media about the likely causes of the landslide.  For example, this article explores the contributing factors, whilst in this one a minister reflects upon both climatic extremes and illegal construction.  The level of openness is surprising, but very welcome.

The press of course continue to describe the anguish of the families of the victims, especially as the "golden" 72 hour period is now passed.  Presumably a decision will be needed soon to terminate the rescue operation and to regrade and entomb the debris.  I suspect that it is inevitable that many of the victims will not be recovered, with the site being preserved as a memorial to them.

Finally, Digital Globe have released a very high resolution satellite image of the site of the landslides, which is available here:

Very useful, but unfortunately, it still does not provide an insight into the source area of the slide - has anyone seen an image of this zone as yet?

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Update: Dramatic increase in the loss of life in the Gansu landslide

Xinhua has this morning dramatically increased estimated loss of life in the landslide at Zhouqu in Gansu Province, China.  The latest toll is 702 known fatalities and a further 1,042 people missing.

Updates for Pakistan, China and India flood and landslide crises, 10th August

As yesterday, this is a brief review of the state of play with the three substantial landslide and flood crises in Asia.

1. Pakistan
The flood wave continues to work its way down the Indus, and is now in the Province of Sindh.   As forecast, heavy rainfall exacerbated the situation yesterday, with totals of over 100 mm in some areas of the province. Kyber-Pakhtunkhwa also saw falls of 30 mm or more in some areas.  Whilst not enough to cause the sort of devastation that we have seen of late, this is sufficient to keep river levels topped up.

 Working our way down the Indus, the second flood at Besham has now peaked and the hydrograph is showing a rapid decline. 

The peak flow in this econd flood was lower than in the first , but was still substantial.  This water will of course have to work its way down the Indus over the next ten days.  It will be interesting to see how this flood looks when it reaches Taunsa.

Moving down to Guddu, the peak discharge appears finally to have passed, meaning that water levels will be slowly falling.  Note however that if the flow behaviour at Taunsa is a guide, the rate at which the water levels fall will be quite slow, meaning that the people have several more days before they will be able to start rebuilding their lives.  Note also that the flood level is still above the exceptionally high level.  The flat peak component of the flood record causes me to reiterate my suggestion yesterday that the hydrograph shown below has not accurately captured the peak flow:

Going south again, and the main concern is now at Sukkur, where the hydrograph appears to be suffering the same problems of saturation at the peak:

Some media reports have suggested that the peak flow here is actually 1.2 million cubic feet per second.  The media are also reporting concerns about the safety of the Sukkur barrage, with several reports suggesting that deliberate breaches of levees are being considered to try to reduce the peak flow.  It seems that a similar exercise was undertaken upstream at Ghouspur, with the inevitable destruction that followed.  However, it is important to understand that these barrages provide irrigation for vast areas of productive agricultural land that is vital for the sustenance of the population of Pakistan.  Deciding on how to protect them is not an easy task.

However, as at Attabad the apparently poor communications strategy of the authorities is unfortunate.  Whilst putting the hydrographs online is a good step, it would be sensible to accompany this with a decent explanation of what is happening, where the threats lie, and the action that might be needed to mitigate them.  Whilst this would not prevent the destruction, at least people might understand why particular courses of action are being followed.

Finally, for northern Pakistan the Pamir Times has provided two updates in the last 24 hours on the Attabad situation.  Most importantly, the water level is now falling, having apparently risen by 6 feet (about 1.8 metres) at the peak of the floods, which caused further widespread destruction. Meanwhile, they continue to note that other landslides have caused severe hardship, and that the Hunza was blocked at Rahimabad to the north of Gilgit.  As far as I can tell Rahimabad is in the valley shown in the Google Earth image below:

Meanwhile, the Pamir Times has also provided some new images of the state of the Attabad barrier itself:

These appear to indicate little change in the state of the dam over the last couple of weeks.  Operations to lower the spillway level have yet to start, but it is heartening to see in some of the images that a monitoring team appears to still be on the site.

2. China
Rescue operations continue at the Zhouqu landslide site, where the number of known fatalities is now 337.  The reported number of missing people is 1,148.  There can be little chance of recovering many further survivors, although one victim was recovered alive today.  The state media are reporting some tales of real anguish in the aftermath of the disaster, exacerbated of course by the "one child" policy in China.  The government is attributing the disaster to the normal villains - poor geological conditions, the recent drought, the heavy rainfall, and the aftermath of the 2008 earthquake.  This is all likely to be true to at least some degree, but there may be other factors as well, most notably deforestation and the legacy of mining activities.  The internet age has spawned a wave of amateur investigative journalism in China.  This All Voices page reviews recent postings of Chinese documents about the landslide hazard in Zhouqu.  Whilst I am naturally sceptical of some of this material, it does appear that the risks to communities posed by landslides in these mountains is well-documented.  In particular, this newspaper article, from 2008, identifies that the slope problems at Zhouqu are sufficiently serious that they have been the location of various studies by Japanese landslide scientists.  However, to be fair to the government, the range of landslide problems in the aftermath of the 2008 earthquake is so serious that prioritising and finding resource to mitigate appropriately is impossible.  Expect more landslide disasters in central China in the coming years.

Two images have appeared in the last 24 hours that demonstrate the magnitude of this slide.  This AP image shows the landslide from the opposite bank:

I would really like to see the source of this huge debris flow - has anyone seen an aerial image of the upper reaches of the track as yet?

And this AP image illustrates the likely velocity of the movement, given away by the mud deposit on, and indeed in, the upper part of the building:

Finally, unfortunately tropical storm Dianmu is moving northwards off the east coast of China.  Although it is unlikely to landfall in China itself, expect heavy rainfall across eastern and central China.  Given the intensity and magnitude of the recent rainfall, this is potentially deeply problematic.

3. The Ladakh debris flows in India
The forgotten disaster amongst everything else that is going on is the Ladakh debris flows that occurred on Friday.  To date the number of known victims is reported to be 165 people, with a further 500 thought to be missing (with very little chance of survival now).  However, Save the Children is reported to believe that the true toll is likely to be in excess of 1,000 because several affected villages have yet to be accessed.  Localised heavy rainfall continues in the area, disrupting relief operations and causing further damage.

One of the most seriously affected towns was Choglamsar.  This is the settlement in the foreground of the perspective Google Earth image below - the presence of the huge debris fan in the background is a clear sign of the processes that have allows the formation of the comparatively flat areas upon which the town is built:

Protecting the town against repeats of this event is not going to be an easy task, but debris flows must be expected on a fan such as this.

I will try to provide further updates tomorrow morning, or sooner if events require.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Updates on landslides and floods in Pakistan, China and India

It is rather difficult to keep up with all the landslides occurring in Asia at present, so for now I'll provide a brief review of the current situation across the three major areas affected:

1. Pakistan
The situation in Pakistan becomes increasingly desperate.  Further heavy rainfall in the mountains in the northwest has meant increased landslide and flood occurrence, and a huge reduction in the aid effort.  The FFD hydrographs in the mountain areas are steadily rising again.  For example, this hydrograph is for Skardu shows that flow is greater now than it was in the heavy rainfall of ten days ago:

Downstream at Besham (close to the mountain front) the discharge is not as high as it was in the first set of floods, but it is rising and the level is undoubtedly high:
The area under the curve is the total volume of water that has been involved in the flood.  This suggests that in terms of overall volume this flood is larger than that of the events last week, even though the peak flow is (so far) lower.

Downstream at Sukkur and Guddu the flow remains exceptionally high.  At Guddu the hydrograph suggests that the peak flow has now been maintained for over 24 hours.  This looks odd - I wonder whether the discharge has exceeded the capacity of the measurement system. 

However, according to the FFD a larger discharge has been measured at Guddu before - in 1986 a discharge of 1,200,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) was measured at this point.

At Sukkur the discharge is continuing to rise, and based upon the Guddu hydrograph may have some time to go before the peak is reached.  The maximum recorded flood at this point is 1,170,000 cusecs in 1986.

GEO News is reporting that the city of Muzaffargarh is now being evacuated.  Given that this is a city of 165,000 people, the severity of the situation is clear.

2. China
Xinhua continues to provide full coverage of the desperate attempts to save people trapped by the landslide in Zhouqu, Gansu Province yesterday.   The magnitude of the slide is clear from the story of the survivor rescued this morning - she was recovered from a an apartment that had been inundated by debris.  The rescuers had to break through a wall to reach her - even though her apartment was on the fourth floor of the building.  Meanwhile the landslide dam has been successfully breached, which at least deals with one key issue.

3. India
The debris flow at Ladakh is now known to have killed 132 people, but a further 500 people are reported to be missing.  The level of damage is really very high indeed, as this AP image shows:

A fascinating insight into the process that occurred at Leh is provided by this commentary from geologist Ritesh Arya, who was in the head scar area when the failures developed:

"Speaking to TOI on phone from Leh, Arya, who was sleeping in a house in Choglamsar village when the entire area abruptly began to move, said: "This village is 6km from Leh on a hillock formed by mud itself. I woke up when I felt massive vibrations and found that the whole hill-side was moving." The loose soil had softened further due to torrential rains. "This is a rare geological phenomenon, and though landslides are common, mud creeps like this are unheard of," said Arya, who holds a Guinness Book of World Record for discovering ground water at an altitude of 11,000 ft in Ladakh.

Describing the sheer size of the mudslide, Arya said: "Its dimensions make it so scary: it was about 20meter high and several kilometers wide." All the houses coming in its way appeared to just dissolve into it as it roared on, destroying the Leh bus stand and the BSNL exchange, said Arya. The mudslide is believed to have travelled 6km, bulldozing the Choglamsar village. Arya said most roads have disappeared under the debris. The worst-hit are the heritage buildings and old houses, traditionally made of mud.

"'People were completely caught unawares. Then suddenly, everyone started scrambling as the enormous amount of loose mud and debris was unleashed. Those who survived in the Choglamsar village had to waded through five-ft high mudflow," said Arya. "There are bodies still buried in the debris and I found arms and legs sticking out at several places," he said."

Whilst elements of this are over-hyped (for example this is far from "unprecedented"), the observations are very helpful and interesting.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

First video of the Gansu landslides

The Chinese State TV company has a new report (in Mandarin) that provides aerial footage of the Gansu landslide site. It is clear from the video that there are in fact two slides. The video is available via the link below (I have removed the embedded video as it played automatically):

Video available here.

The larger of the two slides is shown in this screen capture from the video:

Strangely though neither of these two slides appear to be blocking the valley, as this screen captured image shows:

Does this mean that there is another landslide downstream that is blocking the valley?

Update: the Gansu landslide

Xinhua now reports that the death toll from the Gansu landslide is 127 people, with a further 1,294 people reported to be missing.  So far just 28 people have been rescued alive.

The BBC has published an image of the lower part of the slide:

Note the water flooding the lower storey of the buildings in the background.

Meanwhile in Northern Pakistan...

Amidst the appalling tragedies playing out in southern Pakistan and in China, Northwest Pakistan continues to grapple with its own problems.  Unfortunately the problems at Attabad have not gone away as yet, even though the NDMA reports on the situation have now dried up completely. However, the Pamir Times are still on the case, with a somewhat concerning report yesterday that "Three more houses were dismantled in Gulmit Gojal due to sudden increase in water level of the dammed Hunza River...Rains and floods in different parts of Gojal valley have taken the water level up by around three feet during the last 36 hours, according to local people."

That new houses are being dismantled suggests that the lake is at its highest level so far.  I do hope that the spillway is being watched carefully.
Meanwhile, the Frontier Post reports two substantial landslides in Gilgit-Baltistan on Friday and Saturday.  The first occurred at Qamrah village in Skardu district late on Friday night, reportedly killing 35 people.  The second occurred in Shout village in Ghanche district, killing four people.  Flash floods are also causing substantial problems.

Images of the Meager Creek landslide in Canada

The Meager Creek landslide in British Columbia, Canada on Friday was a very large and very energetic event.  The latest estimates suggest that it had a volume of about 40 million cubic metres, making it one of the largest slides in Canada in recent decades.  Indeed, the Vancouver Sun quotes Rick Guthrie in stating that the slide travelled at 30 metres per second over a distance of 10 km.

Some good images of this event are now available, despite the smoke-filled air (the smoke is from local forest fires).  Worth a look is the Global Winnipeg gallery of the slide here, from which these images are derived:

This image shows the location at which the slide entered the main valley and then spread.  Note the way that the trees on the far valley wall have been stripped off by the flow.  This is called super-elevation and is an indication of the speed of the flow.  To generate this degree of super-elevation the flow must have been moving very quickly.

This is a view from the opposite side of the valley looking up the main flow.  Note the small lake forming upstream of the blockage.  This problem has now apparently been resolved.

This image shows the flow path of the slide down the valley.  Again, note the stripping of vegetation up the valley walls, suggesting a very considerable flow depth.

This is the upper reaches of the main slide, giving a great perspective on the magnitude of the flow.

The very best images of the slide are available on the Flickr page of DBSteers, a member of the Search and Rescue team that flew over the slide.  The images are explicitly copyrighted, so I will not reproduce them here, but I strongly recommend that you take a look.  The page is here:

Take a look - you won't regret it!

First image from the Gansu landslide

Xinhua has now published an image, apparently taken using a mobile phone, of the landslide in Chengguan town:

It is now clear that the landslide affected Zhouqu town, which is shown on the Google Earth image below:

Unfortunately, high resolution images are not available on Google Earth for this area.  These two Panoramio photos give a good idea of what the town and adjacent mountains are like:

Update on the Pakistan floods: 8th August 2010

The Indus flood wave is continuing to flow steadily southwards across the country.  The annotated WHO flood map below, from my earlier post, is for reference in terms of the locations of the hydrograph stations:

The Pakmet hydrograph data shows that the water level at Taunsa is now declining markedly, although it remains in the defined "high" flood category:

Downstream at Guddu, the discharge has been rising, although it should now be close to the peak level:

Downstream at Sukkur, which is the area that is attracting most of the media interest at present, the discharge has been increasing very rapidly:

The barrage here apparently has a design capacity of 900,000 cubic feet per second, which is clearly a concern, although it is likely that it will survive the flood.  Other agencies have suggested that the design flood is as high as 1.5 million cubic feet per second. It is however reported that a 25 m wide breach occurred in a levee at Kandhkot, about 70 km upstream of Sukkur.  Other levees are showing signs of distress, and one levee (at Ghouspur) has been intentionally breached to try to reduce the size of the flood wave.

The final station downstream is at Kotri.  Here water levels have yet to start to rise rapidly.  The peak of the  flood wave is expected to arrive in two or three days from now:

Meanwhile, the official weather forecast states "widespread rain-thundershower, heavy at times, expected in Punjab, Sindh, Eastern Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Kashmir." 

The impact of these floods on the long term welfare of the people of Pakistan should not be under-estimated.  The combination of loss of life, loss of personal assets, loss of dwellings, loss of crop, damage to infrastructure, loss of sanitation and loss of clean drinking water across such a large area cannot be underestimated.  That aid agencies are describing this as being worse than the 2005 earthquake, which is thought to have killed 100,000 people, gives an idea of the scale of the catastrophe.  I would also note that, given the troubled history of this area, there is a very real opportunity for Europe and the US to be seen to be a force for good by providing a proper and effective response to the disaster.  This would surely be a good investment for the future of both Pakistan and the west.

Updated: A devastating landslide in China is reported to have killed at least 96 people

Updated at 09:40 UT to provide the correct location.

The dreadful effects of the 2010 summer monsoon continue.  Over the next couple of hours I will try to provide an update on all of the events of the last 36 hours, but I'll start with the overnight landslide in China.

Xinhua reports that "At least 96 people have been confirmed dead in landslides triggered by torrential rains in northwest China's Zhouqu County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province, said local resuce headquarters.  As of noon, more than 680 residents had been rescued.".

Judging by the CCTV report available here, the landslide appears to have occurred downstream of Zhouqu town, creating a barrier lake that has now flooded the city centre.  The landslide is reported to have occurred at 1 am local time.  There may also have been some debris flows - this rather poor image, captured from the CCTV footage appears to show a debris flow deposit: 

Some Xinhua reports suggest that up to 2000 people may be missing, but this information should be treated with great caution at this stage as it is likely that the true picture is confused at the moment.  However, as the Chinese Premier is on his way to the site it is likely that this is very serious.

A Google Earth perspective view shows the mountains around Zhouqu town:

It is not yet clear where the landslide occurred, or which part of the town has been affected.

I'll post again on this as more information becomes available.  First update available here.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Landslide at Meager Creek, British Columbia, Canada

Thanks to Robin Beech for the heads-up on this one.  CBC News is reporting a large landslide at Meager Creek, a hot springs area north of Pemberton:

"A two-kilometre-wide landslide has been reported near Meager Creek Hot Spring, about 95 kilometres north of Pemberton, B.C. The flow of rock and soil debris has covered a river in the area, causing water to become dammed upstream of the slide.  Authorities say an unknown number of people are trapped in the area, but there is no word on injuries."

This appears to be the Meager Creek area:

Image from hereCTV has a very poor quality image of what appears to be a large slide:

 Even the most cursory look at the Google Earth image for this area shows that this is certainly not the first large, valley-blocking landslide in Meager Creek:

Debris flow disaster in Leh, Indian Kashmir

Thanks to several people for the heads up on this.  Various Indian news agencies are reporting that the town of Leh in Ladakh, Indian controlled Kashmir was hit by a series of debris flows / flas floods triggered by a cloudburst.  The reported death toll is currently reported to be at least 50, and may increase substantially.

This Panoramio image gives a fairly good idea of what Leh is like: