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Researchers warn of possible major Yangtze landslide

30 April 2014
A study by the University of Nottingham Ningbo has revealed that a huge prehistoric landslide once blocked the Yangtze River, and it warned that such an event could happen again.

Researchers said that the landslide occurred 30,000 years ago and was triggered by a large earthquake. The area is near the present-day town of Qiaojia in Yunnan province, which today is home to 500,000 people

The study’s lead author, Professor David Higgitt, said: “The natural damming of rivers by landslides is a significant hazard in the seismically active, mountainous terrain of southwest China.

“The findings of this study are significant not only due to the huge dimensions of the landslide but because of the enormous area impounded by the dam and recognition that a river as large as the Yangtze has been − and can be − impacted by persistent river-blocking landslides.”

Qiaojia is now downstream of the new Beihetan Dam, which will be the third largest hydropower project in the world.

“The presence of the new reservoir introduces the additional hazard of earthquake-generated landslides causing displacement waves, where landslides fall into a reservoir and cause flooding over a dam, often with devastating consequences to the surrounding area.

“The need for vigilance in assessing seismic and slope stability hazards in the area is crucial,” said Professor Higgitt.

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