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Loess failure led to Afghan double landslide

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Combination of heavy rain and failure of loess deposits is believed to have caused the double landslide at Badakhshan in Afghanistan on Friday.

Attempts to rescue survivors of the landslide which destroyed more than 300 houses has now been called off and the area declared a mass grave by the government.

According to a government report of the events, almost 600 people from a nearby village who came to the aid of the victims of the first landslide were engulfed by the second landslide. The government has said that the true death toll may never be known and estimates vary between 300 and over 2,000. Yesterday was declared a national day of mourning in Afghanistan to mark the event.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has said that tis focus is now on assisting the 4,000 survivors.

Analysis of the area using Google images by Durham University Wilson Professor of hazard and risk David Petley and ETZ researcher Kerry Leith have suggested in blogs written since the event that the landslide could have been predicted. Leith has also warned that a lake has started to build up behind the landslide mass and represents a further risk to the region that needs to be managed.

Petley called for investment in hazard mapping in Afghanistan and said: “Landslide hazard identification and mapping programme in this highly landslide-prone area of Afghanistan would be far cheaper than the cost of this single landslide. Given that the expertise is readily available around the world to undertake this type of exercise, it is a folly that it is not being done.”

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