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Landslide Disaster Assistance Team (LDAT)

LDAT strives to assist foreign partners, upon their request, with landslide hazards technical capacity building and to support them as they take the lead in mitigating these hazards in their respective countries. 

Landslides are a geologic hazard that impact every continent and country on Earth. Annually, landslides cause thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars of losses. In order to reduce fatalities and losses, the USGS Landslide Disaster Assistance Team (LDAT) strives to support foreign partners on landslide hazards with training, hazards education, and emergency response. LDAT strives to assist foreign partners, upon their request, with landslide hazards technical capacity building and to support them as they take the lead in mitigating these hazards in their respective countries. LDAT was co-founded by the USGS and USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (now the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA)).

LDAT works in the background with counterparts on issues they have identified as priorities for landslide disaster risk reduction. This assistance helps counterparts build landslide capacity to assess hazards, educate public officials, and prepare for future landslide events. Our goal is to support our foreign partners so they can take the lead in identifying and mitigating landslides hazards in their home countries. LDAT deployments occur only after invitations from counterpart countries and upon approval from USGS and USAID.

The Landslide Disaster Assistance Team draws scientists from across the USGS and BHA to work on international capacity building and response activities. These scientists have diverse specialties and areas of expertise, including landslide inventory and susceptibility mapping, remote sensing and landslide emergency response, landslide runout and mobility modelling, landslide and rockfall hazard assessments, storm-induced shallow landslides and debris flows, earthquake-induced landslides, landslide instrumentation, post-wildfire debris flow modelling, and public education.

Examples of LDAT Capacity-Building Projects

  • Sri Lanka: Technical capacity building by providing the Sri Lankan National Building Research Organization (NBRO) workshops on GIS and mapping, modelling, and interpreting landslides and landforms from lidar. Also, workshops on techniques for post-landslide disaster response and data collection. Collaboration on the installation of one of three landslide monitoring stations intended to improve NBROs current regional rainfall threshold model used to issue landslide warnings. NBRO scientists also visited the United States to attend a landslide conference.
  • Federated States of Micronesia: landslide susceptibly and runout hazard map for Kosrae.  

Previous LDAT Projects and Emergency Response

  • Venezuela, 2000: Several days of heavy rain on steep slopes north of Caracas triggered flooding and debris flows, killing tens of thousands. USGS scientists visited the areas and provided technical assistance to the emergency response.
  • El Salvador, 2001: The February 2001 M6.5 earthquake in central El Salvador triggered thousands of landslides and USGS scientists visited to assess landslide hazards. Subsequent tropical storms triggered debris flows and led to follow-up investigations and assistance.
  • China, 2008: Following the May 2008 M7.9 Wenchuan earthquake in China, the international community used commonly available GIS tools to map co-seismic landslides. In the weeks after the earthquake, USGS science teams traveled to China to assist in landslide investigations, followed up by scientists from the China Geological Survey visiting the United States.
  • Haiti, 2010 and Shaking from the January 2010 M7.0 Haiti earthquake triggered landslides that blocked roads, dammed rivers and streams, and threatened infrastructure in many parts of Haiti. These report and map summarize assessment activities and preliminary findings and offers photographic coverage of landslide damage.
  • Union of the Comoros, 2014: Shaking from the March 2014 M4.8 earthquake on the island of Anjouan and heavy rainfall from a tropical cyclone, triggered landslides that displaced over 3000 residents of the island. The USGS and USAID/OFDA provided support and research assistance.

Through LDAT, the USGS earns credibility, worldwide recognition, and otherwise unobtainable experience, observations, and data. USGS provides the technical experts to address landslide disaster risk reduction issues worldwide, but LDAT would be impossible without the infrastructure, personnel, and financial support provided by USAID/BHA. This unique program is a critical element of global geologic disaster risk reduction. In addition to LDAT, USGS and USAID/BHA also support the Earthquake Disaster Assistance Team (EDAT) and the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP).