Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Eight people killed by landslide in Shanxi Province, China.

Eight people, described as migrant workers from Henan Province, were killed by a landslide in Chagou village in Shilou County in Shanxi Province in northern China at around 3.00 am local time on Monday 5 August 2013 (around 7.00 pm on Sunday 4 August, GMT). The landslide buried two conventional houses and two cave dwellings under 1400 m² of soil, which had become waterlogged following continuous heavy rains in the area that started in July. Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall. Local authorities investigating the incident have arrested the contractor responsible for housing the migrant workers, and confirmed that other people in the area close to the landslide have been rehoused for their own safety.

Rescue workers at the site of the Chagou landslide on Monday 5 August 2013. Xinhua.

Shilou County lies in the Yellow River valley of China, where loess hills are made up of loosely consolidated (but very fertile) fine soils comprised of material blown in from the Gobi Desert, a formerly fertile area that had its rainfall cut off by the impact of India into southern Asia and subsequent rise of the Himalayas. The Yellow River (Huang He) is fed by glaciers in the Himalayas, but is highly prone to flash flooding and landslides during the seasonal monsoon (another effect of the Himalayas). Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. The combination of fertile soil, frequent flooding and unstable hillsides has led to the Yellow River also being known as the China's Sorrow and Scourge of the Sons of Han, as historically the area has always had a high population, vulnerable to such events.

The approximate location of the 5 August 2013 Chagou landslide. Google Maps.


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