Hong Kong Mudslides 1972

In the 60 years since 1947, 470 people have been killed by landslides in Hong Kong, mostly because of failures associated with slopes that people have interfered with or created. The two largest were the fatal Po Shan Road and Sau Mau Ping on 18th June 1972 (138 fatalities) and 25th August 1976 (18 fatalities).

1972

  • Multiple incidents of landslides have occurred throughout Hong Kong, especially in Wan Chai. Po Shan and Shui Fan landslips have killed 148 people
  • Landslides in 1972 led to improvements in guidelines for hillside excavation and safety and rescue procedures
  • The Po Shan Road caused the largest loss of life from a single mudslide in Hong Kong
  • On 18th June, all British Forces in Hong Kong were mobilised, all police and fire services leave was cancelled and the Civil Aid Service and Auxiliary Medical Servicees were called in to assist rescue Operations

Po Shan Road Landslides, Hong Kong, June 18th, 1972

Work on a construction site above the road, together with exceptionally heavy rainfall in early 1972 caused the landslide.

  • Approximately 40,000m^3 travelled 230 m down slope
  • 138 people killed
  • 20 injured
  • Two buildings destroyed, one of which was 40m high, and one severely damaged
  • Rain storm after the mudslide worsened conditions
  • The main mudslide was 10 seconds long, and forced itself through buildings
  • The road was blocked by falling mud at a construction site, and cracks appeared in a retaining wall
  • The slip carried away nearly all the bamboo framing and metal sheet covering
  • Several buildings underwent subsidence
  • Residents were urged to leave their homes and apartments as a precaution
  • Po Shan Road was cordoned off to the public and nearby homes were evacuated
  • After 8pm, an even larger slip occurred, and in less than 10 seconds, it cleared a section from Po Shan Road to Kotewall Road, destroying several homes and retaining walls
  • The Slip knocked Kotewall Court completely off its foundation and collapsed several flats at Robinson Road and Babington Path
  • 67 were killed and 20 injured in less than a minute
  • Because of the lack of lighting, and because of the rain, as well as the destruction of the transport network, rescue efforts were sporadic
  • Some landslips continued to occur, causing withdrawals of emergency personnel

Sau Mau Ping Landslide, June 16th 1972

  • Landslide buried a squatter village at Sau Mau Ping licensed area
  • 71 people were killed
  • The mud spilled over Tsui Ping Road and into Kwun Tong Resettlement Estate
  • Many of the dead were children

Sri Lanka Mudslides, 2016

Image result for sri lanka mudslide 2016

Mudslides hit Sri Lanka in May this year. Mudslides hit three villages in central Kegalle district. The landslide started near the town of Aranayake on the 17th May, 2016, but events leading up to it should have made the outcome predictable from the 15th onward.

Many cities were flooded with more than 100mm of rain on the 15th of May. International airports had to be closed just from the weather, and 35 families had been displaced. Airports would remain closed over the next few days.

Causes

3 days of torrential rain destabilised slope areas, in the heaviest rainfall in 25 years. The rain started on the 14th May.

Before the extreme weather, Sri Lanka had been experiencing a drought, and power cuts as hydroelectric power stations could not function. A rare benefit of the extreme weather which triggered the event was that the dams filled up to 75% capacity, allowing a supply of electricity to rescue workers to help them work effectively.

The main landslide area was very sparsely populated by only a few minor villages. No major work had been undergone on the slopes, as evidenced by footage of the event. Instead it was caused by a sudden huge increase in slope water content combined with susceptible rock type.

Impacts

On the 18th, 134 people remained unaccounted for, and 14 bodies had been recovered, with 37 deaths total. 350,000 people were displaced. 92 deaths have now been confirmed. 220 famlies were reported missing according to the Sri Lankan Red Cross. As of May 25th, the death toll was deemed to be 101 with 100 missing people.

The slide crashed into 3 separate villages; Elangapitiya, Pallebage and Siripura, all of which were obliterated.

60 houses were buried in dirt.

The mud level was up to 30ft deep in some areas.

Many sectors of infrastructure were effected, such as planes. Many major roads were entirely flooded, including the Southern Expressway. There were heavy power failures in some towns. The government warned members of industries such as fishing to not go to work until the situation was sorted- this was of course an attempt to save lives, but there was an economic impact because of this upon fishermen.

Response

The Meteorology Department of the government issued a severe weather warning on the 14th, for 12 hours. 100mm of rainfall was expected, with wind speeds of up to 80kmh in exposed areas.

One of the initial responses to the initial weather, was closing down air traffic.  Closed airports included: Bandaranaike International Airport (flights diverted to Cochin International Airport or Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport), and Ratmalana Airport. The Sri Lanka Airforce had to be called in to rescue stranded fishermen. The Navy had to save 200 people trapped in floods on the 17th, and the mud slides started, killing 21 in just one slide. The Airforce continued rescue work throughout using military grade helicopters. 81 Navy flood relief teams were dispatched.

Rescue teams were sent out to the area specifically, so that 156 people had been rescued by the 18th May, along with 1,550 people already sheltered in seven different evacuation sites. Soldiers were active in rescue efforts for weeks afterwards. Military spokesman Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera said that the situation was being constantly assesed and that more troops would be deployed as needed, but that he doubted they would find many survivors.

More than 185,000 people who lost their homes were housed in temporary emergency shelters. The rain hindered the effectiveness of rescue efforts, in addition to causing the initial event. Many roads were underwater, and impassible, and national parks were completely closed off, and rescuers struggled to bring in their equipment. The Ceylon Electricity Board imposed emergency power cuts as a precautionary measure. In one night, the Army and Navy evacuated 26,000 people from Colombo (the capital). 1,500 armed personal were rallied,  including 71 officers.

All schools were closed on the 20th.

International efforts from other countries included:

  • Australia contributing $500,000 to UNICEF for humanitarian assistance
  • India pledging to provide assistance, and then bringing in Navy ships full of supplies.
  • Japan sent planes carrying emergency items, such as generators, blankets, and water purifiers.
  • Nepal offered $100,000
  • Pakistan gave a 30-bed field hospital
  • Singapore Red Cross donated $150,000 in relief items
  • United Nations- in collaboration with other NGOs- offered people to help administer aid
  • USofA provided $50,000 in immediate aid and a further $1 million in providing water for populations vulnerable to floods.

(Image Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36328863)