A Disaster Written In Dirt


With Afghanistan still reeling from the impact of last week’s devastating landslide, Joshua Keating notes that such calamities are on the rise:

According to research by David Petley, a geographer at Durham University, the number of casualties caused by landslides has been massively underestimated. In a 2012 paper for the journal Geology, he calculated that between 2004 and 2010, there were 2,620 fatal landslides around the world, killing a total of 32,322 people. As Nature points out, that means landslides kill far more people than wildfire and about half as many as floods. … Petley’s data seems to indicate that the number of landslides around the world is increasing, likely due to “increases in population, precipitation intensity, and environmental degradation.” In the case of Abi Barak, photos show that the slope near the town was likely unstable for some time, which means that this disaster was likely a foreseeable event that could have been avoided through management and monitoring.

(Photo: Villagers search through dirt at the site of a landslide in northern Afghanistan on May 5, days after the sudden earthfall trapped some 2,000 people underground. By Farshad Usyan/AFP/Getty Images)