impact of the landslides in Kyrgyszstan
Danger for all
This Central Asian republic has a long history of landslides
associated with earthquakes, some of which had catastrophic effects.
For instance, in 1885 an earthquake took place along a main fault
near Bishkek. This earthquake triggered several landslides. The
major landslide in the Bielogorka area was 20-30 metres thick, 500
metres wide, and about 2000 metres long and carried 25 million m3
of material. The landslides obstructed a river, thereby impounding
its water to create a lake.
In this century, three earthquakes triggered important landslides
and avalanches that caused casualties. These landslides also destabilised
mining tailings from former uranium mining activities, as a result
of which uranium waste slid into the adjacent river.
In these inhabited and industrial regions,
the problem of active tectonics and seismicity is changing from
one of purely scientific interest to one of economic and human importance.
Though the major cities are located in the plains, many small cities
and villages are huddled in narrow valleys or close to escarpments.
Moreover, nomads move their settlements up the mountains when they
take their flocks to graze the summer pastures, where they are highly
exposed to rockfalls.