Catastrophic Landslides of the 20th Century - Worldwide

Science Center Objects

Table of the Catastrophic Landslides including year, country, triggering process, the volume of material, impact, and comments.

1911 Tadzhik Rep. (Formerly USSR) Usoy rock slide Usoy earthquake M = 7.4 2.0 x 109 Destroyed Usoy village; 54 killed; dammed Murgab River, impounding 65-km long still existing Lake Sarez Casualties low because of sparse population 3
1919 Indonesia (Java) Kalut lahars (Volcanic mudflows) Eruption of Kalut volcano 185 km2 5,110 killed; 104 villages destroyed or damaged Draining of Crater Lake caused hot mud flows 47, 39, 4
1920 China (Ningxia) Haiyuan landslides Haiyuan earthquake ??? 100,000 killed; many villages destroyed 675 large loess landslides created more than 40 lakes 5, 9
1921 Kazakh Rep. (formerly USSR) Alma-Ata debris flow Snowmelt ??? 500 killed Debris flow in Valley of Alma-Atinka River 45
1933 China (Sichuan) Deixi landslides Deixi earthquake M = 7.5 >150 x 106 6,800 killed by landslides; 2,500 drowned when landslide dam failed Earthquake caused several major landslides; largest formed 255-m-high dam on Min River 22
1939 Japan (Hyogo) Mount Rokko slides and mud flows Heavy rain ??? 505 dead/missing; 130,000 homes destroyed or badly damaged by mass movements and/or floods Caused by major typhoon; 50-90% of impact of Japanese typhoons caused by mass movements 26, 29
1949 Tadzhik Rep. (formerly USSR) Khait rock slide Khait earthquake M = 7.5 ??? 12,000 - 20,000 killed or missing; 33 villages destroyed Began as rock slide; transformed into large loess and granite debris avalanche 13, 44
1953 Japan (Wakayama) Arita River slides and debris/mud flows Heavy rain ??? 460 dead/missing; 4,772 homes destroyed by mass movements/floods Caused by major typhoon; 50-90% of impact of Japanese typhoons caused by mass movements 26
1953 Japan (Kyoto) Minamiy-amashiro slides & debris/mud flows Heavy rain ??? 336 dead/missing; 5,122 homes destroyed or badly damaged by mass movements/floods " 26
1958 Japan (Shizuoka) Kanogawa slides and mud/debris flows Heavy rain ??? 1,094 dead/missing; 19,754 homes destroyed or badly damaged by mass movements/floods " 26
1962 Peru (Ancash) Nevados Huascaran debris avalanche ??? 13 x 106 4,000-5,000 killed; much of village of Ranrahirca destroyed Major debris avalanche from Nevados Huascaran; average velocity 170 km/hour 24, 27
1963 Italy (Friuli-venezia-Griulia) Vaiont Reservoir Rockslide ??? 250 x 106 2,000 killed; city of Longarone badly damaged; total damages: US$200 million (1963 $) High-velocity rock slide into Vaiont Reservoir caused 100-m waves to overtop Vaiont Dam 12, 16, 28
1964 United States (Alaska) 1964 Alaska landslides Prince William Sound Earthquake M = 9.4 ??? Estimated US$280 million (1964 $) damages Major landslide damage in cities of Anchorage, Valdez, Whittier, Seward 11, 46
1965 China (Yunnan) Rock slide ??? 450 x 106 Four villages; 444 dead Occurred at “high speed” 21
1966 Brazil (Rio de Janeiro) Rio de Janeiro slides, avalanches, debris/mud flows Heavy rain ??? 1,000 dead from landslides and floods Many landslides in Rio de Janeiro and environs 8, 14
1967 Brazil (Serra das Araras) Serra das Araras slides, avalanches, debris/mud flows Heavy rain ??? 1,700 dead from landslides and floods Many landslides in mountains SW of Rio de Janeiro 8, 14
1970 Peru (Ancash) Nevados Huascaran debris avalanche Earthquake M = 7.7 30-50 x 106 18,000 dead; town of Yungay destroyed; Ranrahirca partially destroyed Debris avalanche from same peak as in 1962; attained average velocity of 280 km/hr. 6, 31, 32
1974 Peru (Huancavelica) Mayunmarca rock slide-debris avalanche Rainfall? River erosion? 1.6 x 109 Mayunmarca village destroyed, 450 killed; failure of 150-m-high landslide dam caused major downstream flooding Debris avalanche with average velocity of 140 km/hr. dammed Mantaro River 19, 20
1980 United States (Washington) Mount St. Helens rock slide-debris avalanche Eruption of Mount St. Helens 2.8 x 109 World 1s largest historic landslide; only 5-10 killed, but major destruction of homes, highways, etc.; major debris flow; deaths low because of evacuation Evacuation saved lives; began as rock slide; deteriorated into 23-km-long debris avalanche with average velocity of 125 km/hr.; surface remobilized into 95-km-long debris flow 33, 42
1983 United States (Utah) Thistle debris slide Snowmelt & heavy rain 21 x 106 Destroyed major railroad and highways; dammed Spanish Fork flooding town of Thistle; no deaths Total losses: US$600 million (1983 $)—50% direct losses, 50% indirect losses 15, 38
1983 China (Gansu) Saleshan landslide ??? 35 x 106 237 dead; buried four villages; filled two reservoirs Loess landslide 21, 43
1985 Colombia (Tolima) Nevado del Ruiz debris flows Eruption of Nevado del Ruiz ??? Four towns and villages destroyed; flow in valley of Lagunillas River killed more than 20,000 in city of Armero. Death toll unnecessarily large because hazard warnings not passed to residents 25, 41
1986 Papua, New Guinea (East New Britain) Bairaman Rock slide-debris avalanche Bairaman earthquake M = 7.1 200 x 106 Village of Bairaman destroyed by debris flow from breached landslide dam; evacuation prevented casualties; huge effect on local landscape Debris avalanche formed 210-m-high dam that impounded 50-million m3 lake; dam failed, causing 100m-deep debris flow-flood downstream. 17, 18
1987 Ecuador (Napo) Reventador landslides Reventador earthquakes M = 6.1 and 6.9 75-110 x 106 1,000 killed; many kms of trans-Ecuadorian oil pipeline and highway destroyed; total losses: US$ 1 billion (1987 $) Land sliding mainly in saturated, residual soils on steep slopes; thousands of thin slides remobilized into debris flows in tributary and main drainages. 34, 35
1994 Colombia (Cauca) Paez landslides Paez earthquake, M = 6.4 250 km2 Several villages partially destroyed by landslides; 271 dead; 1,700 missing; 158 injured; 12,000 displaced. Thousands of thin, residual-soil slides on steep slopes turned into damaging debris flows in tributary and main drainages. 23, 35
1998 Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador Hurricane Mitch
  • flooding
  • Landslides
  • debris-flows
Hurricane Mitch   Approximately 10,000 people killed in the flooding and landslides, which occurred throughout the region. Casitas volcano in Nicaragua experienced large debris flows. Impossible to differentiate deaths from landslides from deaths due to flooding. 180-mile per hour winds affected Honduras primarily. Torrential rains occurred, at the rate of 4 inches per hour. Large landslides in Tegucigalpa and elsewhere. mitch1, mitch2, mitch3


Source for Table

(Modified from) Schuster, R.L., 1996. The 25 most catastrophic landslides of the 20th century, in Chacon, Irigaray and Fernandez (eds.), Landslides, Proc. Of the 8th International Conf. & Field Trip on Landslides, Granada, Spain, 27-28 Sept. Rotterdam: Balkema.

References for Table

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  3. Bolt, B.A., W.L. Horn, G.A. Macdonald and R.F. Scott, 1975. Geological Hazards, 328 p., New York: Springer-Verlag.
  4. Brand, E.W., 1984. Landslides in Southeast Asia: a state-of-the-art report. In Proceedings, 4th Int'l. Symposium on Landslides 1:17–59. Toronto: Canadian Geotechnical Society.
  5. Close, U., and McCormick, 1922. Where the mountains walked. National Geographic Magazine, 41:5:445-464.
  6. Cluff, L.S., 1971. Peru earthquake of May 31, 1970. Engineering Geology Observations. Seismological Society of America Bulletin, 61:3:511-521.
  7. Cruden, D.M. and D.J. Varnes, 1996. Landslide types and processes. Chapter 3 in A.K. Turner and R.L. Schuster (eds.), Landslides Investigation and Mitigation. Transportation Research Board Special Report 247:36-75. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences.
  8. Da Costa Nunes, A.J., A.M.M. Costa Couto e Fonseca and R.E. Hunt, 1979. Landslides of Brazil. Chapter 11 in B.Voight (ed.) Rockslides and Avalanches, 2, Engineering Sites, p. 419-446. New York: Elsevier.
  9. Feng, X. and A. Guo, 1985. Earthquake landslides in China. In proceedings, 4th International Conference and Field Workshop on Landslides, pp. 339-346. Tokyo: Japan Landslide society.
  10. Gasiev, E., 1984. Study of the Usoy landslide in Pamir. In Proceedings, 4th International Symposium on Landslides, 1:511-515. Toronto; Canadian Geotechnical Society.
  11. Hansen, W.R., 1965. Effects of the earthquake of March 27, 1964 at Anchorage, Alaska. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 542-A, 68 p., Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  12. Hendron, A.J., Jr., and F.D. Patton, 1985. The Vaiont slide: a geotechnical analysis based on new geologic observations of the failure surface. Waterways Experiment Station Technical Report, 1:104p. Vicksburg, Mississippi: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  13. Jaroff, L., 1977. Forecasting the earth s convulsions. In Nature/Science Annual, pp. 21-33. New York: Time-Life Books.
  14. Jones, F.O., 1973. Landslides in Rio de Janeiro and the Serra das Araras escarpment, Brazil. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 697, 42 p. Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office.
  15. Kaliser, B.N., 1983. Geologic hazards of 1983. Survey Notes, pp. 3-8, Salt Lake City: Utah Geological and Mineral Survey.
  16. Kiersch, G.A., 1964. Vaiont Reservoir disaster. Civil Engineering 4:3:32-39.
  17. King, J., 1987. The Bairaman Valley debris flow. In Proceedings, 5th International Conference and Field Workshop on Landslides, Christchurch, New Zealand, 1-12 August, pp. 27-235.
  18. King, J., I. Loveday, and R.L. Schuster, 1989. The 1985 Baraman landslide dam and resulting debris flow, Papua New Guinea. Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology, 22:4:257-270.
  19. Kojan, K.L. and J.N. Hutchinson, 1978. Mayunmarca rockslide and debris flow, Peru. In B. Voight (ed.), Rockslides and Avalanches, 1, Natural Phenomena, pp. 316-361. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  20. Lee, K.L., and J.M. Duncan, 1975. Landslide of April 25, 1974 on the Mantaro River, Peru. Washington, D.C.: Committee on Natural Disasters, 72 p. National Academy of Sciences.
  21. Li, Tianchi, 1990. Landslide management in the mountain areas of China. ICIMOD Occasional Paper 15:50 p.
  22. Li, Tianchi, Schuster, R.L., and Wu Jishan, 1986. Landslide dams in southwestern China. In R.L. Schuster (ed.), Processes, Risk, and Mitigation, pp. 146-162. American Society of Civil Engineers Special Publication3.
  23. Martinez, J.M., Avila, G., Agudelo, A., Schuster, R.L., Casadevall, T.J., and K.M. Scott, 1995. Landslides and debris flows triggered by the 6 June 1994 Paez earthquake, southwestern Colombia. Landslide News, no. 9:13-15. Kyoto: Japan Landslide Society.
  24. McDowell, B., and J.E. Fletcher, 1962. Avalanche. National Geographic Magazine, 121:855-880.
  25. Mileti, D.S., Bolton, P.A., Fernandez, G., and R.G. Updike, 1991. The eruption of Nevado del Ruiz volcano, Colombia, South America, November 13, 1985. Committee on Natural Disasters, National Research Council, Natural Disaster Studies, 4:109 p., Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
  26. Ministry of Construction, 1983. Reference manual on erosion control works (in Japanese), 386 p. Japan: Erosion Control Department.
  27. Morales, B., 1966. The Huascaran avalanche in the Santa Valley, Peru. In Proceedings, International Symposium on Scientific Aspects of Snow and Ice Avalanches, 5-10 April 1965. Davos, Switzerland: International Association of Scientific Hydrology Publication No. 69: pp. 304-315.
  28. Muller, L., 1968. The rock slide in the Vaiont Valley. Rock Mechanics and Engineering Geology, 2:148-212.
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  32. Plafker, G. and G.E. Ericksen, 1978. Nevados Huascaran avalanches. Chapter 8 In B. Voight (ed.), Rockslides and Avalanches, 1, Natural Phenomena, pp. 277-314. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
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Publications for Hurricane Mitch

  1. Crone, Anthony J., Rex L. Baum, David J. Lidke, Damon N.D. Sather, Lee-Ann Bradley and Arthur C. Tarr, 2001. Landslides Induced by Hurricane Mitch in El Salvador—An Inventory and Descriptions of Selected Features, U.S. Geological Survey Open-file Report 01-0444.
  2. Bucknam, Robert C., Jeffrey A. Coe, Manuel Mota Chavarria, Jonathan W. Godt, Arthur C. Tarr, Lee-Ann Bradley, Sharon Rafferty, Dean Hancock, Richard L. Dart, and Margo L. Johnson, 2001. Landslides Triggered by Hurricane Mitch in Guatemala—Inventory and Discussion, U.S. Geological Survey Open-file report 01-0443.
  3. Cannon, Susan H., Kathleen M. Haller, Ingrid Ekstrom, Eugene S. Schweig III, Graziella Devoli, David W. Moore, Sharon A. Rafferty, and Arthur C. Tarr, 2001. Landslide Response to Hurricane Mitch Rainfall in Seven Study Areas in Nicaragua, U.S. Geological Survey Open-file report 01-0412A.