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Mapping of hazard from rainfall-triggered landslides in developing countries: Examples from Honduras and Micronesia

January 1, 2009

Loss of life and property caused by landslides triggered by extreme rainfall events demonstrates the need for landslide-hazard assessment in developing countries where recovery from such events often exceeds the country's resources. Mapping landslide hazards in developing countries where the need for landslide-hazard mitigation is great but the resources are few is a challenging, but not intractable problem. The minimum requirements for constructing a physically based landslide-hazard map from a landslide-triggering storm, using the simple methods we discuss, are: (1) an accurate mapped landslide inventory, (2) a slope map derived from a digital elevation model (DEM) or topographic map, and (3) material strength properties of the slopes involved. Provided that the landslide distribution from a triggering event can be documented and mapped, it is often possible to glean enough topographic and geologic information from existing databases to produce a reliable map that depicts landslide hazards from an extreme event. Most areas of the world have enough topographic information to provide digital elevation models from which to construct slope maps. In the likely event that engineering properties of slope materials are not available, reasonable estimates can be made with detailed field examination by engineering geologists or geotechnical engineers. Resulting landslide hazard maps can be used as tools to guide relocation and redevelopment, or, more likely, temporary relocation efforts during severe storm events such as hurricanes/typhoons to minimize loss of life and property. We illustrate these methods in two case studies of lethal landslides in developing countries: Tegucigalpa, Honduras (during Hurricane Mitch in 1998) and the Chuuk Islands, Micronesia (during Typhoon Chata'an in 2002).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2009
Title Mapping of hazard from rainfall-triggered landslides in developing countries: Examples from Honduras and Micronesia
DOI 10.1016/j.enggeo.2008.11.010
Authors E. L. Harp, M.E. Reid, J.P. McKenna, J.A. Michael
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Engineering Geology
Index ID 70032424
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse