Landslides Are Far More Deadly Than We Think

Previous studies vastly underestimate the death toll associated with landslides, prompting calls by researchers to pay much closer attention to the effects of overdevelopment in vulnerable parts of the globe.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn


What’s the Latest Development?

According to a study produced at Durham University, over 32,000 people died in landslides between 2004 and 2010. This figure is up to 10 times higher than previous estimates, which claimed a death rate of 3,000 to 7,000. The report’s primary author, David Petley, states, "Areas with a combination of high relief, intense rainfall, and a high population density are most likely to experience high numbers of fatal landslides.” One reason listed for the inaccuracy of prior estimates is the underreporting of landslides that kill fewer people. In fact researchers believe that the higher number quoted may also be an underestimate.

What’s the Big Idea?

Landslides should be treated as a serious global threat, particularly in vulnerable areas such as China, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and countries near the Himalayas such as India and Pakistan. All of these areas experience very heavy rainfall in the form of monsoons, cyclones and hurricanes, all of which are capable of triggering landslides. “Controlling land use, managing forests and discouraging development in vulnerable areas could help manage and mitigate landslide risks.”

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