Another California Landslide

This is the second time this month that a landslide has fallen over the 101 Freeway in California, this one being in Mendocino County.  Road crews were working at the time of the landslide and they had to quickly escape to the bottom of the hillside as sediment and rocks fell onto the road.  A concrete barrier used for the roadside work was also knocked over by the falling rocks, causing the freeway to shut down.

According to the California Department of Transportation, the landslide was “sporadically active” throughout the day and that the area was “prone to rock slides.”  The fact that the area is more likely to continue having landslides inhibits the ability for crews to move in and clean up the incident.  The highway remained closed until all the rocks were removed.

Case Study Summary Hogan

In November of 1984, the Nevado Ruiz started experiencing regular tremors. Over the next 51 weeks, the volcano continued to show signs of eruption, until finally erupting on November 13,1981. It would become one of the most devastating eruptions in living memory, causing over 23,000 deaths and costing almost a quarter of the Columbian GDP. Unsurprisingly, the main threats of the disaster were mudslides caused by mass ice-melt on the glacier of the volcano. The mud-slides would mainly threaten the town of Armero, 75 km east of the Nevado Ruiz.

Almost every single person involved handled the situation incorrectly. The town itself was built on a plane made by the previous eruption of the Nevado Ruiz. There was even a detailed history of the mudslide that formed the plane, explaining when, where, and how it formed. The village failed to do their due diligence on volcanic history, as did the Columbian geology institution, and the UN disaster commission. However, the USGS published a map of possible mud slide zones, and distributed it to the people of Armero. However, they did not educate people properly, there was no practice evacuation or education on evacuation routes. The mayor in the town did not think the disaster was a big deal, and was telling the national news network over HAM radio that he did not think the mudslide was a big threat as he was swept away and killed. For whatever reason, the police did not have a HAM radio, and were incommunicado when the volcano erupted at 9 pm, and did not evacuate the town in the two hours until the mudslides reached Armero. Almost every single building was destroyed, and 23 thousand people died before 1 AM, in a town of 24,000.

There is not a single mitigation method in the world that would prevent a mudslide of the magnitude that hit Armero, the only things that would help would be to move the town three hundred feet vertically, or away from the mudslide threat zones. Evacuation plans, and power independent siren systems would have gone a long way towards helping people evacuate, HOWEVER THE EVACUATION ORDER WAS NOT GIVEN, BECAUSE NOBODY PICKED UP THE PHONE OR RADIO. So sorting out the chain of command would go a long way towards resolving disasters.

On November 14, the day after the eruption, a crop duster flew over Armero to survey the damage. They almost did not find it, however there was a single culvert of trees with intact buildings. It then called the local dispatch, and the military was sent in. This was nine hours after the initial eruption, and five hours after the mudslides had subsided in Armero. Rescue operations had to be carried out purely by helicopter, which limited the scope that rescue operations could take place.



I did my case study on the 2005 La Conchita Landslide in California. In 2005 a landslide with over 400,000 tons of mud destroyed over 20 houses and killed ten people. Before this event happened there were fifteen days of huge amounts of rain. Due to this and the remobilization of the 1995 landslide, that also was caused because of the rain, the 2005 landslide was triggered and caused a lot of damage. The interesting thing is that the people were quite aware that there was a huge possibility that there would be another landslide before the one in 2005. Also there have been many landslides and mudslides over the past thousand years. In fact after the 1995 landslide happened, residents had to sign a waiver acknowledging that they know of the risk that comes with living there.

Although some of the residents moved after this event, many stayed. This is a small rural. community in the middle of the highway and the bluff (hill) that is right above the community. About 300 people live there and generations upon generations have lived there for many years. There are a couple of reasons the residents stayed. One was because of their socioeconomic status. This community is poorer than most. On top of that the properties decreased in price after the 1995 landslide so the people cannot afford to leave. However, the majority stay just because they are stubborn and refuse to move. Since their families have lived there forever, they do not want to leave even if it means risking their lives.

The recovery process was ineffective. Even though the emergency personnel advised the people to evacuate, they resisted and stayed. The county even asked for help from  Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue at the University of South Florida to bring in robots to help with finding the people buried under the tons of mud. However, the robots failed miserably and were sent back to Florida. In addition to this, the recovery plan that was proposed estimated $150,000,000. The county could not afford that and had to fundraise money. However, the plan to stabilize the hill was never carried out and instead a few barriers, a drainage system, and a wall to prevent small amounts of land erosion sliding down the hill was installed. This only helps with minor hazards. If there is ever a landslide, and geologists predict there will be, it will crush the houses and destroy their property once again.

The people in their own ways have tried to prepare themselves for the aftermath of another possible landslide after the 2005 one by keeping a storage shed filled with emergency supplies such as generators, radios, lights, sleeping bags, etc. They decided that if another landslide hits and crushes everything then they will just start from scratch and start all over again. The county even bought a tractor to remove dirt off the roads if need be. The people consider themselves “prepared” any future landslides because they now know to call 911, evacuate and honk their horns when the disaster hits to let others know of it.

It is amazing to think that people will rather risk their lives by staying in an extremely hazardous place then considering evacuating if possible.

Image result for la conchita,_California


Icebergs Ahoy!

Along the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, icebergs were spotted floating by some housing. There are about 80 icebergs sighted during the month of April during the normal iceberg season, but currently this month there has been about 600 massive objects that have been seen floating by. These were all spotted in the North Atlantic shipping lanes. The iceberg pictured caught the eyes of many, and is measured to be about fifteen stories high, and that is above the water.



Another Mudslide in Columbia


Just three weeks after Columbia’s Mocoa river overflowed and the ensuing landslides killed 300 people, the country is again struggling with mudslides. The city of Manizales is currently experiencing heavy rainfall – the mayor is reporting the the monthly average amount rain has fallen overnight in the region. Electricity, water, and  gas have been suspended during the crisis. Over a dozen people have been reported dead, and many more are missing. We will have to monitor this situation and hope that it doen’t escalated to the level of the Mocoa disaster.

Read the BBC story here.

Cyclone Cook clean up

Before Cyclone Cook made landfall in New Zealand at the Bay of Plenty on Thursday it was predicted to be the worst cyclone to hit New Zealand since 1968. Prior to the Cyclones landfall on the Northern Island, New Zealand authorities declared a state of emergency and people fled their homes. The expected path of the cyclone was forecasted to pass right over the islands. The actual track of Cyclone Cook turned away from New Zealand. Since the cyclone was moving so fast the rain did not last long. Instead New Zealand dodged the bullet and the worst of the storm passed by out at sea.

When Cyclone Cook made land fall at 6:30 PM New Zealand time it caused power outages, extensive flooding, landslides, uprooted trees and caused road closures. Horizon Energy says that its customers should expect to remain without power for 3 days. Luckily there was only one casualty  and two people were sent to the hospital. On the South Island in Canterbury Christchurch sustained some of the most extensive flooding due to the Heathcote River overflowing its banks. Christchurch is the area that I am doing my case study for which is why this caught my attention.

Nasa satellite photo of Cyclone Cook approaching New Zealand, 12 April 2017 (issued 13 April 2017).

Tourists head towards Whitianga on State Highway 25, passing a slip.

Rebuilding and Mitigation in Peru

This years floods in Peru are some of the worst the country has ever faced, with 10 times the usual amount of rainfall leading to devastating amounts of running water and many landslides. There are currently at least 100 people dead, 158,000 people displaced from their homes and 210,000 of those homes damaged. In addition to personal and private loses the overall infrastructure within the country itself also took major hits with as many as 260 collapsed bridges, and 3,000 km of roads destroyed. The overall damages have come to cost $3.1 billion dollars, and plans to rebuild comes with a price tag of $9 billion dollars.

These floods and landslides came during what is regularly known as landslide season, but even in a country which teeters between drought and floods nothing could prepare them for the sheer amount of water and the sheer power of the floods they would experience. Not only was there a record amount of rain, which caused dry rivers to become a white water rafters dream, but there has never been so many people living in the direct path of these floods. While the country is not well-prepared to deal with flood season, this particular flood season completely exposed the poor infrastructure of Peru.

Jorge Nieto, the defense minister of Peru, stated that this disaster has opened up great opportunity for improvements, claiming that this country needs”reconstruction of historic proportions”. Nieto’s mitigation plan includes channeling all of the 30 or so rivers which flow from the Andes to the Pacific. He also wants to create reservoirs, especially in mountainous areas where there is often a shortage of water, this is also his attempt at making the best of all the rains.

President Kuczynski commented on the $9 billion dollar two stage reconstruction plan. The first stage will take care of immediate reconstruction of homes, cities and towns that have been damaged or destroyed. The second stage, which will be significantly longer will include building the infrastructure in way which brings Peru to become a modern and organized country in the face of potentially more extreme climate events.

Not only did the floods cause dollar damage to structures, but the floods carried so much debris including dead livestock that they almost threatened the water supply in the capital city Lima. Sedapal, Peru’s waterboard, was forced to shut off water for five days in order to properly sanitize and filter the contaminated flood waters. Lima which is the second largest desert city in the world, is used to not having enough water but was nowhere near prepared to have the amount of water that the floods brought in. These disasters just further proved the insufficient handling of water in Lima, where 1 million people do not have access to clean running water.

Not only is the infrastructure a factor in the amount of devastation, but where people have decided to settle also contributed to the tragedy. People who are moving out of rural areas and towards more urban dwellings have been settling in floodplains out of necessity. These residents were hit extremely hard by landslides as well as flooding. The reconstruction plans for Lima must not only be adaptive but also corrective, and could potentially involve relocating an upwards of millions of people. The UN has also stepped in and warned that Peru has to involve in some kind of multi-hazard warning system, as well as better education and understanding of these events as well as the impacts that climate change have on them.

This was a really well-written and thought out article, that left very few, if any, stones un-turned. This is another case which shows that education is super important. The people were gearing up for a drought in Lima, and not only was the infrastructure not prepared to handle this amount of water, the people were also not knowledgeable about what to do. Furthermore this article brings up that where people had settled was a contributing factor to the deaths and destruction. People because of poverty are living in floodplains which is one of the most dangerous habitats to settle in, because all rivers flood. The floods in Peru are yet another example of the socioeconomic gap, both because of where people were forced to live, and also because so many people 150+ thousand people are displaced from homes. When disasters strike developing countries they take everything down with them. I am glad however, that the current president of Peru and the other government officials sound like they are taking mitigation really seriously. Their plan involves channeling and also building reservoirs that will hopefully prevent something like this from happening in the future. The article did not say but I am hoping that the way in which they rebuild the infrastructure is also more sound, and better equipped for handling flooding in the future. This sounds like it is going to be a long process, but I think Peru will be better off after it is over.

Indonesian landslide kills 4, leaves more than 30 missing

April 6, 2017: At least four people have been confirmed dead and more than 30 others have been missing after a landslide struck Indonesia’s Java island.
According to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, the landslide stretched 1.5 kilometers long which engulfed farmers harvesting ginger in Banaran village in East Java province’s Ponorogo district.
Seventeen people are having treatment at a community health centre, The Jakarta Post reported.

Colombia Mourns 273 Landslide Victims

After a deadly landslide on April 1st, the rapidly decomposing bodies of almost three hundred loved ones were released to be buried on the 4th as rescuers continued to search for victims littering Southern Columbia following a weekend of flooding and landslides. Originally, 154 victims were reported. However, within three days the number had escalated to at least 273. Desperate families lined up for blocks to search morgues for missing loved ones who had died when several rivers “burst their banks in the early hours of Saturday, sending water, mud and debris crashing down streets and into houses as people slept.” Although the officials sought to bury the bodies as soon as possible to avoid spreading diseases, and began vaccination against infection, many citizens pleaded for a more streamlined process to obtain the bodies of loved ones before decomposition rendered them unrecognizable. Families in the city of Mocoa have spent days and nights “digging through the debris with their hands despite a lack of food, clean water and electricity.”

President Juan Manuel Santos has blamed climate change for the disaster. According to officials, Mocoa had been battered by 1/3 of its usual monthly rain in just one night, which caused the rivers to burst their banks. Others said deforestation in surrounding mountains meant there were few trees to prevent water causing mass movements down bare slopes.

As of last week, more than 500 people were staying in emergency housing. Families of deceased loved ones are due to receive $6,400 in aid, with the government promising to help with hospital and funeral costs.

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Chitwan Landslide

A few days ago a dry landslide obstructed the Chitwan road. It was reported that about a dozen cars were buried under the dirt and two people were killed. The two people that died on the way to the hospital were identified. Rana, a forty-five year old man was writing a motorbike when the landslide hit him and his son was also with him at the time. His son is receiving treatment at the hospital. The other person, Koiri, who died was an assistant driver. Another man was also found injured and is being treated at the hospital. It seems as if only 2 people were affected injury-wise since that is all that has been reported and now the the road has been cleaned up of the debris and traffic resumes.

Muglin Narayangadh road section obstructed by dry landslide