Sunday 28 July 2019

Thirty six confirmed deaths following landslide in Guizhou Province, China.

Thirty six people have now been confirmed dead and a further fifteen are still missing following a landslide in Guizhou Province, China, on Tuesday 23 July 2019. Around 40 people have been rescued alive following the incident, in which over two million cubic meters of hillside collapsed onto a village in Shuicheng County following heavy rains. 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.

Rescue workers in Shuicheng County, Guizhou Province, China, following a landslide on 23 July 2019 that buried 22 houses under two million cubic meters of rock and mud. Xinhua

Central Guizhou has a warm temperate climate with high levels of rainfall all year round. Rainfall is typically highest in June when the area often receives over 200 mm of rainfall. July is drier, but typically still has over 100 mm of rain. This year's summer has been exceptionally wet, with a number of flooding incidents across the province.

Rescue workers in Guizhou Province, China, following a landslide this week. AFP.

Guizhou Province is largely comprised of blocky limestone hills, uplifted by the collision between India and Asia during the Tertiary period. The area has a monsoonal climate, with heavy seasonal rains which start in April, reach a peak in July and August, and tapir out in October. Historically the hills were covered by subtropical broadleaved forest, but, despite the area being considered to be a high conservation priority with a number of highly protected species and internationally recognised reserves, the province has been hit heavily by deforestation, making it vulnerable to landslide events as soils are washed of the underlying limestone karst. 

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