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.
Showing posts with label Morakot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Morakot. Show all posts

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Landslides in Art Part 17: Decisive Moment by Chen Po-I

This is the latest of my occasional series of posts about the depiction of landslides in art.  Part 16 can be found here.

Chen Po-I is an unusual artist. He trained to Masters Level in Ocean Engineering at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan before turning to photography.  He is now a celebrated photographic artist with a long list of exhibitions.  He has a Flickr page depicting some of his work here.
His current exhibition is at the Fotoaura Institute of Photography in Tainan in Taiwan (there is a brief write-up of it in the Taipei Times).  The works are interesting and challenging.  In 2009 Typhoon Morakot struck Taiwan, bringing extremely heavy rainfall that triggered widespread landslides and debris flows.  Chen Po-I has collected a series of images of the destruction that the debris flows caused, focusing primarily on the marks left on walls by the flows:

Marakot 2: Photo courtesy of Fotoaura Institute of Photography

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The causes of the Shiaolin landslide disaster in Taiwan

The Shiaolin landslide disaster in Taiwan, which occurred during typhoon Morakot last August, has been the source of huge controversy. To recap, the landslide, which occurred during an exceptional rainfall event, wiped out Shiaolin village, killing about 500 people. The controversy centred on two key aspects - first, the perceived very slow response of the government to the disaster and second the possibility that tunneling associated with the Zengwen Reservoir project may have been a contributing factor to the slope failure. In response the Executive Yuan of Taiwan commissioned an investigation from the Public Construction Commission, which released its final report yesterday.

The report is of course in Mandarin, but very helpfully there is a powerpoint file available that summarises the findings and provides some illustrations of the key issues. This powerpoint file is available here (warning it is a large file in Powerpoint in pptx format):

The report is available here:

The key finding of the report is in my view correct - this is that the tunnel project was not the cause of this landslide disaster - they factor was the exceptional rainfall experienced in this event. The powerpoint file provides a dramatic illustrations of the magnitude and intensity of this rainfall:

Click on the image for a better view in a new window. The map on the left is the recorded rainfall for the storm, the table on the right is the total rainfall for a number of stations in the worse affected area. Note that the precipitation totals are extreme in every sense of the word - c.2500 mm (2.5 metres of rain) is the equivalent of three years total rainfall for the temperate area in which I live. This is the largest rainfall event ever recorded in Taiwan, and probably the most intense rainfall event worldwide for half a century.

The report shows that disturbance associated with the tunnel is not sufficient to be a factor in the landslide - a conclusion that I support. Instead, they show that the slope underwent a dip slope failure that led to a massive rockslide that destroyed the village. The report suggests that the landslide had a maximum depth of about 86 m and a volume of 2.5 million cubic metres. From what I can tell the slide itself was a wedge failure with a dip-slope defining part of the wedge.

There is only one aspect of the report that continues to cause concern. This is the interpretation of the mechanism of failure. This slide shows a long profile of the landslide site, which shows bedding parallel to the slope right down to the river (section A-A'):

This just doesn't seem to accord with what Chris Massey and I observed on site at the toe of the slope:

This picture is taken from the north end of the toe of the slope looking upstream - note the bedding on the far side of the valley - this is near vertical.

This picture was taken at the site of the old bridge abutment at the toe of the slide (the concrete in the middle of the image is this abutment I think) - again, note the very steeply dipping rocks at this point.

The final point to make is that the Shiaolin landslide was of course not the only failure to occur in the area during Morakot. Mapping of this region has identified 880 landslides covering an area of 2058 hectares (20.88 square kilometres).

There can be no doubt that Morakot was an extraordinary event.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Debris flow damage from Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan

In addition to visiting the Shiaolin landslide in Taiwan at the weekend, we also managed to visit a couple of other places that had suffered damage during typhoon Morakot. Damage from debris flows and river floods occurred extensively throughout the upland areas of southern Taiwan, as these images show:

The government has set aside about US$5 billion for reconstruction. Unfortunately this area is threatened by another typhoon, called Parma:

Friday, 4 September 2009

The geological structure of the Hsiaolin slide

Thanks to reader Chingying Tsou, who has answered my request for information about the geological structure of the Hsiaolin landslide. He has provided a link to the website of the Sino-Geotechnics Research and Development Foundation, which provides the key information. The page is in Chinese, but the diagrams are really helpful, as is the Google translation.

So here is a topographic map of the landslide site, with the major faults and of course the landslide itself marked on:

You will note two cross-section lines on the map, one of which (A-A') runs down the axis of the landslide. This cross-section is reproduced below:

It is clear from this that the landslide is a dipslope failure - i.e. the slide has occurred on beds that are orientated parallel to the slope, and thus facilitate failure. The cross-section indicates that the rocks are a mixture of sandstone and shale. This can often cause problems as the shale is weak, impermeable and prone to weathering, whereas the sandstone is often stronger but allows the accumulation of water (i.e. pore pressure generation). The presence of the fault is an additional factor - it may well be that the movement on the fault has caused the beds to be disrupted and thus weakened. It should also be noted that this cross-section is probably only indicative. It would not surprise me to find that the river has actually eroded out the lower portions of these beds, then filled in the spaces with the terrace deposits upon which the village was built, further weakening the slope.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Eyewitness account of landslides triggered by Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan

Aerial image of Hsiaolin from CNR-IRPI

I have today returned from my holiday, so normal service should be resumed. Interestingly, the number of readers of the blog appears to have increased in my absence. There is a lesson there I think! Anyway, I have a large backlog of things to post, but unfortunately also have a large backlog of other work as well, so it may take some time.

Anyway, to get things moving, there is a very interesting eyewitness account of landslides triggered by Typhoon Morakot on a blog run by Rich Matheson, a resident of S. Taiwan. The account is at the following link:

It is well worth a read.

Thanks to Richard Foster of (a company that runs adventure tours to the fabulous landscape of S. Taiwan) for bringing this to my attention.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A first decent view of the Shiaolin (Hsiao-Lin) Landslide

First, apologies if my posts are a little sporadic (and if I am not replying to your emails). I am currently on leave in the Swiss Alps. However, I will continue to make short posts over the next fortnight, especially in light of the Taiwan landslides.

Thanks again to Tsou Ching-Ying of Kyoto University for bringing to my attention a Youtube video of the Shiaolin site. This is of course the village that was most seriously impacted by Typhoon Morakot. The video appears to have been shot from a UAV. The quality is a little marginal, but you will get a very clear impression of the landslide if you view it below:

If you cannot view it above it should be visible here.

This is not really a mudslide as the media have described it. It is a little hard to characterise from this view, but it looks to be a large-scale, catastrophic rock slope failure that has transitioned into a debris flow. It appears to have had a long runout - I guess it is unsurprising that the loss of life was so high.