Geophysics

Slide Hazards

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Science  31 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6098, pp. 1021
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6098.1021-b
CREDIT: USGS

Quantifying the number of fatalities after natural disasters is a challenging yet critically important task. In the wake of an individual event, response teams use this information to focus immediate rescue efforts. In the longer term, human loss statistics are useful in calculating risks associated with a particular hazard. Fatalities from landslides, however, have been poorly quantified as compared to those from other hazards, in part because of their concurrence with other events such as earthquakes and tropical cyclones. To reassess the loss of life from landslides, Petley compiled an exhaustive global data set of fatal landslides from 2004 to 2010, excluding landslides triggered by earthquakes. These 2620 landslides resulted in 32,322 deaths—most occurring in the Himalaya mountains and China—an estimate an order of magnitude larger than those previously drawn from other databases. Because landslides are triggered by increased rainfall and human activities such as environmental degradation, fatalities from landslides may increase with climate change and increased urbanization.

Geology 40, 10.1130/G33217.1 (2012).

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