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Hazard analysis of landslides triggered by Typhoon Chata’an on July 2, 2002, in Chuuk State, Federated States of Micronesia

July 21, 2021

More than 250 landslides were triggered across the eastern volcanic islands of Chuuk State in the Federated States of Micronesia by torrential rainfall from tropical storm Chata’an on July 2, 2002. Landslides triggered during nearly 20 inches of rainfall in less than 24 hours caused 43 fatalities and the destruction or damage of 231 structures, including homes, schools, community centers, and medical dispensaries. Landslides also buried roads, crops, and water supplies. The landslides ranged in volume from a few cubic meters to more than 1 million cubic meters. Most of the failures began as slumps and transformed into debris flows, some of which traveled several hundred meters across coastal flatlands into populated areas. A landslide-inventory map produced after the storm shows that the island of Tonoas had the largest area affected by landslides, although the islands of Weno, Fefan, Etten, Uman, Siis, Udot, Eot, and Fanapanges also had significant landslides. Based on observations since the storm, we estimate the continuing hazard from landslides triggered by Chata’an to be relatively low. However, tropical storms and typhoons similar to Chata’an frequently develop in Micronesia and are likely to affect the islands of Chuuk in the future.

To assess the landslide hazard from future tropical storms, we produced a hazard map that identifies landslide-source areas of high, moderate, and low hazard. This map can be used to identify relatively safe areas for relocating structures or establishing areas where people could gather for shelter in relative safety during future typhoons or tropical storms similar to Chata’an.

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