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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment - Book www.ijege.uniroma1.it © 2011 Casa Editrice Università La Sapienza
653
DOI: 10.4408/IJEGE.2011-03.B-071
LANDSLIDE DAMS INDUCED BY TYPHOON MORAKOT
AND RISK ASSESSMENT
s
u
-C
Hien
CHEN
(*)
, C
HunG
-l
i
HSU
(**)
, t
inGyeH
WU
(***)
, H
sien
-t
eR
CHOU
(****)
& P
enG
CUI
(*****)
(*)
National Chung-Hsing University, Taiwan, 40227 - Email: scchen@nchu.edu.tw
(**)
National Ping-Tung University of Science and Technology, Taiwan, 912 - Email: clhsu@mail.npust.edu.tw
(***)
National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction, Taiwan, 23143 - Email: tingyehwu@gmail.com
(****)
National Central University, Taiwan, 32001 - Email: htchou@cc.ncu.edu.tw
(*****)
Institute of Mountain Hazards & Environment, CAS, Chengdu, China - Email: pengcui@imde.ac.cn
the 2009 typhoon Morakot (C
Hen
& H
su
, 2009; l
iao
et
alii, 2003). More than 500 people died, and countless
property losses occurred in those events. The two dis-
asters showed the need to improve Taiwan’s insufficient
emergency response to landslide dam disasters. A land-
slide dam is caused by other serious sediment hazards,
especially during typhoon events in the summer.
The formation of a landslide dam involves a series of
complicated sediment movements. Analyzing this com-
plicated natural phenomenon, involves several scientific
disciplines, including hydrology, geography, landscape,
and soil physics. s
CHusteR
& C
osta
(1988) attributed
the formation of roughly 90% of landslide dams to pre-
cipitation, earthquakes, and volcano avalanches, among
these factors, precipitation and earthquakes are the prin-
ciple ones accounting for approximately 84% of land-
slide dams. C
Hen
(1999) confirmed that the landslide
dams formed after the 1999 Chi-chi earthquake. Some
of these dams still exist, however they are not a source
of immediate danger. Furthermore, some landslides
dams were also formed after typhoon Morakot. How-
ever, until now no detailed studies investigate the differ-
ences of the dams produced in 1999 and those produced
in 2009, as well as the response strategies.
Firstly, this study describes the inducements, types,
and failure processes of the landslide dams to show the
two types of landslide dams induced by different haz-
ards. Then the four landslide dams with the highest dan-
ger levels are focused and the difference among the two
types of landslide dams is represented. Furthermore,
ABSTRACT
As with other compound disasters caused by cli-
mate change, the occurrence probabilities of landslide
dams and their secondary disasters have increased and
became a serious issue after the 2009 Morakot typhoon
in Taiwan. This paper describes the mechanism of the
landslide dam formation. Different types of landslide
dams are classified by their danger level. This study
also describes the inducements behind earthquake-
landslide-triggered and typhoon-triggered landslide
dams and compared their differences. Finally, both en-
gineering and non-engineering aspects of the disaster
management strategies are outlined. This study con-
cluded that better disaster management strategies for
landslide dams should focus on the long-term mitiga-
tion which includes a warning and monitoring system,
engineering facilities, and a response process.
K
ey
words
: landslide dam, Typhoon Morakot, failure, disa-
ster prevention, response, mitigation strategy
INTRODUCTION
Taiwan is sensitive to sediment disasters because of
fragile geologic conditions and a steep topographic en-
vironment. More than 70% of the landscape is hillslope;
the typhoon season brings concentrated and heavy rain-
fall, thus sediment disasters occur frequently during that
time. Recently, disasters triggered by landslide dams
have become a significant issue in Taiwan, especially
those triggered by the 1999 Chi-chi earthquake and by
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5th International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation: Mechanics, Prediction and Assessment Padua, Italy - 14-17 June 2011
is lower than 10. The deposits silt up after crushing and
are displaced downstream. Many landslide dams formed
after typhoon Morakot are crushed dams (k
oRuP
, 2005).
THE FAILURE CHARACTERISTICS OF LAN-
DSLIDE DAMS
s
CHusteR
& C
osta
(1986) reviewed 63 landslide
dam cases and stated that 22% of the landslide dams
failed within one day, 50 % failed within 10 days, 83%
failed within six months, and 91% survived for a year.
Most landslide dam failures result from various factors
and produce dangerous flooding downstream. In the fol-
lowing section, the stability assessment utilized to iden-
tify the danger levels of a landslide dam is described.
Normally the stability of a landslide dam should
be classified in terms of numerical simulations or an
experimental model. When accurate numerous param-
eters and materials are prepared, a numerical simula-
tion method identifies the phenomenon of landslide
dam failure more precisely than an experimental mod-
el. However, an experimental model is more appropri-
ate for application in an emergency, when information
is urgently needed. Outburst flooding data also relies
on numerous empirical data (k
oRuP
, 2005). Therefore,
when an immediate need arises for information about
the danger level, an experimental result is preferable.
The dimensionless Blockage Index (DBI) formula
is an effective index for assessing the stability of a
landslide dams based on the dam’s area, height, and
volume (e
Rmini
& C
asaGli
, 2003). The DBI formula
is defined as follows:
where A
b
is the area of the landslide dam, H
d
is the
accumulated sediment height of a dam, and
V
d
is the
accumulated sediment volume of a dam.
e
Rmini
& C
asaGli
(2003) also discovered the char-
acteristics of DBI values by reviewing 84 landslide dam
cases. A landslide dam is more stable when its DBI is
less than 2.75, and unstable when its DBI is more than
3.08. A DBI value between 2.75 and 3.08 is transitional.
THE TYPES OF LANDSLIDE DAMS AFTER
CRUSHING
Many studies demonstrate the main mechanism
of dam failure (t
akaHasHi
, 1988; y
an
& C
ao
, 2009;
n
iColetti
& P
aRise
, 2002). This study focused on
three principle mechanisms in describing the dif-
this study investigated the potentially efficient mitiga-
tion measures to reduce risks that include engineering
and non-engineering strategies by the processes that
lead to landslide dam failure. An emergency response
process to improve the existing response mechanism is
offered by the experiences on dealing with slopeland
disasters, which is divided into initial, short-term and
long-term stages. Finally, some conclusions are sum-
marized according to the significance in every section.
THE MECHANISM AND TYPE OF LAN-
DSLIDEDAM FAILURE
Landslide dams are made when a stream is blocked
by the mass from a landslide, debris flow, volcano mud-
flow, glacial ice, or other process. As debris blocks the
stream, the upstream water level increases. Since the
dam body is composed of debris material, its structure
is not solid and lacks of soil cement. Erosion of the dam
body, generates flow rush, melting, sliding of the geolog-
ic material, and overtopping flow (y
an
& C
ao
, 2009).
Finally the dam suddenly fails, leading to aggradations
downstream and causing severe losses. Thus, identifying
and classifying different levels of risk is necessary for
providing early warning of landslide dam failure.
We defined three landslide-dam formations by their
danger level potentials; high danger dam, stable dam,
and crushed dam. A high danger dam poses great risk
with a high probability of the dam failing immediately.
Sediment material blocks the main flow path completely,
resulting in blocked deposits and no outflow. Generally,
this type of dam fails in a few hours or days because
either the river water increases or the dam’s length-to-
depth ratio is between 10 and 20. Serious losses are
caused by floods and energy released when the dam fails.
A stable dam forms when the landslide dam experi-
ences conditions of overtopping and unblocked outflow.
The water either flows out at the same outlet of the main
river or follows a different flow path. The water attains
a balance between inflow and outflow. Additionally, this
type of dam is more stable than a highly dangerous dam
because length-to-depth ratio of the stable dam exceeds
20. Engineering measures can extend the life of this type
of dam. For most of the energy associated with the de-
posits and the flow is low. Accordingly, this kind of dam
has a low probability of causing serious disasters.
A crushed dam is a short-term dam that can fail sud-
denly. Often, a crushed dam results from a highly dan-
gerous dam. The length-to-depth ratio of a crushed dam
(1)
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LANDSLIDE DAMS INDUCED BY TYPHOON MORAKOT AND RISK ASSESSMENT
Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment - Book www.ijege.uniroma1.it © 2011 Casa Editrice Università La Sapienza
655
In Taiwan, mitigation projects related to hillslope
disasters are managed by different institutions, includ-
ing the Water Resources Agency, Soil and Water Con-
servation Bureau (SWCB), and Forestry Bureau. The
17 landslide dams have been monitored and were clas-
sified into three levels according to their danger poten-
tial (Tab. 1). The first level (Level A) lists three dams
considered highly dangerous. Therefore, these dams are
carefully monitored, and evacuation announcements
and emergency respondent activities are prepared for
emergencies. The second level (Level B) contains six
dams identified as not immediately dangerous. The
strategies for dealing with this type of dam are monitor-
ing and when needed engineering strategies. The third
level (Level C) contains ten dams that were already
crushed. In the following sections, this study details
interpretations of the three important landslide dams in
Level A, examine the special case of Shou-lin village
(l
iao
et alii, 2003), and show their features in Tab. 2.
SHIBUN-XI LANDSLIDE DAM
This dam was made by a catastrophic landslide,
which occurred upstream of the Shibun-xi stream, Ping-
dong County, southern Taiwan. The dam’s distance from
the nearest downstream village is 11 km. The water
storage volume in the landslide dam is approximately
500,000 m
3
; the maximum water depth is about 23 m
and the watershed area is about 4 ha. Debris distributed
on the flow bed after the first failure triggered the pro-
gressive wash continuously. Due to unstable geologic
conditions and many landslide spots in the downstream
areas, a prediction was made that either a series of land-
slide dams would form or a second disaster would occur.
ferences in how dams fail: overtopping, piping, and
slope failure. s
CHusteR
& C
osta
(1986) and e
vans
(2006) surveyed 202 landslide dam cases in that oc-
curred in 1985; they discovered that more than half of
those cases were largely caused by overtopping. Spe-
cifically, 197 cases were caused by overtopping, four
were caused by piping, and 3 only one was triggered
by slope failure. The characteristics of landslide dam
body material, dam strength, infiltration coefficient,
and hydrologic conditions upstream are principle fac-
tors involved in landslide dam failure. The above fac-
tors define the three types of landslide dams.
First, the factors leading to overtopping are high
strength of the dam body and the dam’s low permeabil-
ity. These factors cause the speed of water level rise to
be greater than the seepage velocity. Since the dam is
naturally formed and lacks mitigation engineering to
deal with overtopping, the dam’s body is destroyed soon
after erosion from overtopping occurs (t
abata
et alii,
2002). Second, instantaneous slip failure occurs when
the permeability coefficient is large, and the strength of
dam body is low. Sediment accumulates at the slope toe
and is easily carried downstream by the river.
Finally, a comparison of the progressive failure
type with the other two types of dam shows that, in
the former, the permeability coefficient is the largest
and the strength of the dam body is the lowest. The
dam erodes even though the water depth is low. This
process triggers some small-scale landslides, and the
dam eventually fails (a
wan
et alii, 2007).
LANDSLIDE DAMS INDUCED BY TYPHO-
ON MORAKOT AND THE DIFFERENCE
WITH EARTHQUAKE-INDUCED CASE
Typhoon Morakot was a mid-level typhoon that
passed by Taiwan in a slow path. The rainfall during
this typhoon was intense and reached an cumulative
rainfall of 2,000 mm across the island, causing land-
slides and debris flows and producing 17 landslide
dams. Most of these dams were located in Chenyou-
len-xi catchment in central Taiwan and Chisan-xi
and Lounoun-xi catchments in southwestern Taiwan
(Fig.1). Most of these dams are failure because of
heavy rainfall and the risk of some dams decreased
due to overtopping soon after their formation. How-
ever, the complex physical conditions of these dams
mean that uncertainties remain. Accordingly, the miti-
gation work for these dams is still important.
Fig. 1 - Locations of
landslide dams
Taiwan relative
to isohyets of
rainfall totals
(mm) in Ty-
phoon Morakot
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5th International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation: Mechanics, Prediction and Assessment Padua, Italy - 14-17 June 2011
is high, and the material is fragile. For these reasons,
overtopping could easily trigger a secondary failure.
TAIMARI-XI LANDSLIDE DAM
This dam is located upstream from the Taimari-xi
stream in southeast Taiwan. This dam was produced when
the avalanche blocked the stream flow. The dam’s volume
is approximately 5.33 million m
3
; the maximum water
depth is 10 m and the watershed area is 70 ha. With the
geomorphic survey result showing that the dam has al-
ready failed three times. The debris material was scattered
and displaced on the river bed and in the downstream area.
Most part of the silted dam is not eroded except of
the outlet part. The width of the outlet is about 20 m
and the depth of the outlet is about 5 m. This dam is
typical in the case of progressive failure, thus erosion
will continuously occur on the dam. The landslide
amount is considerable, so the blockage will likely
continue in the next rainfall season.
SHOU-LIN VILLAGE LANDSLIDE DAM
The landslide in Shou-lin village caused the most
severe losses during typhoon Morakot. More than four
hundred people were dead during the landslide dam
crushing. A landslide involving a total volume of about
20 million m
3
first occurred north of the village. The de-
bris with high water capacity blocked the stream, pro-
ducing the landslide dam. The landslide dam crushed
quickly because of the dam’s thickness and the high
water level of the stream. Flood water and debris from
the dam destroyed most of the houses in the village.
DIFFERENCES BETwEEN EARTHQUAkE-
LANDSLIDETRIGGERED AND RAINFALL-
TRIGGERED LANDSLIDE DAMS
Approximately 20 landslide dams were generated
after the 1999 Chi-chi earthquake and the 2009 typhoon
Morakot, respectively. Only one dam formed after the
Chi-chi earthquake still exists; none of the dams formed
after typhoon Morakot still exist. This study compared
these dams according to their primary inducing factors,
earthquakes and heavy rainfall (Tab. 2). The main dif-
ference between these two types of dams stems from
their various basic mechanisms and soil humidity. Gen-
erally, the rainfall-triggered dams are less stable and fail
more easily. However, if a landslide dam is triggered
during a heavy rainfall event, its stability could worsen
and a failure could cause a more serious disaster.
CHISAN-XI LANDSLIDE DAM
This dam is located upstream of the Chisan-xi
stream, Kaohsiung County. The dam’s distance to the
nearest village is 7 km because the dam was found
when the avalanche caused debris to slide down from
the right bank and deposited debris in the left bank.
The approximate volume of the landslide dam is about
1.85 million m
3
; the maximum water depth is 10 m and
the watershed area is 23 ha. The dam material moisture
Tab. 1 - Details of the 17 landslide dam cases
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LANDSLIDE DAMS INDUCED BY TYPHOON MORAKOT AND RISK ASSESSMENT
Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment - Book www.ijege.uniroma1.it © 2011 Casa Editrice Università La Sapienza
657
available to the overtopping type landslide dam to
reduce its increasing water level. The culvert or the
pump is also determined under the small catchment in
the upstream and with less inflow.
The conveyance structure
A spillway is the one of the most appropriate con-
veyance structure for landslide dams. The structure
should be considered along the river path. This meas-
ure could be utilized to the overtopping failure type
of landslide dams for controlling the water. Such con-
struction is built through the compression soil to de-
crease the infiltration rate, raise the soil’s resistant to
erosion, and reduce flow velocity. This measure is also
utilizing at some existing landslide dams currently.
Reinforcement engineering facility
Reinforcement engineering includes compressing
the dam, constructing a check dam, or other stable engi-
neering. The compression is normally determined based
on conditions, such as length, height, dam material, wa-
ter pressure, or erosion. This measure is usually utilized
when the landslide dam is stable and with the dam prob-
ably is failure by progressive or instantaneous type.
Stability engineering of the hillslope
The secondary failure of a landslide dam or a land-
slide is likely to occur because the fragile slope land and
the debris flow torrent are potentially dangerous and close
to the initial hazard spots. However, engineers struggle to
stabilize a landslide area with an extended magnitude in
a short period of time. To solve this problem, a monitor-
ing system is necessary, along with reinforcement engi-
neering to strengthen the hillslope toe. This measure is
utilized when the landslide dam is crushed or stable and
may be failure by instantaneous slip way.
The risk assessment level procedure for landslide dams
In addition to engineering measures, non-engi-
neering measures, such as announcement systems and
disaster education are significant to decrease risks as-
THE MITIGATION STRATEGIES FOR
PREVENTION AND RESPONSE
THE ENGINEERING STRATEGIES FOR LAN-
DSLIDE DAM MITIGATION
The danger of a landslide dam is caused by con-
tinuously increasing river water levels that negatively
affect the dam body. The water pressure increases with
water depth by an order of two; the raising water level
increases the infiltration phenomenon and also the fail-
ure probability. Rising water levels and overtopping
also cause damage such as gullies and debris flow to
the dam surface. These phenomenon may finally trig-
ger the crush of landslide dam. Therefore, some engi-
neering measures are needed and offered to reduce the
danger of the landslide dams corresponding to three
different types of dam failure mentioned earlier.
Lowering the water level
As part of a stability dam check, a fixed critical
water level is important to consider. Any river water
that rises above this critical level should be removed
or be led downstream by the spillway. To avoid over-
topping, the fixed water level should be higher than
the storage water level of the dam. This measure is
Tab. 2 - Main features of the landslide dams after typhoon Morakot
Tab. 3 - The differences between landslide-triggered and
rainfall-triggered dams
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5th International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation: Mechanics, Prediction and Assessment Padua, Italy - 14-17 June 2011
sociated with landslide dams. Generally, after a land-
slide dam forms, a urgent series of mitigation efforts
are preformed. These efforts include monitoring, an-
nouncement, and risk assessment.
In reality, a comprehensive monitoring system is
difficult to put in place, because of limited time and
sediment hazards occur in the hillslope areas. For
these two reasons, around-the-clock manual observa-
tions are typical. However, the announcements and
risk assessments are always carried out after detailed
professional investigations are represented, which is
not responsive to the emergency demands. Therefore,
how to utilize existing information to evaluate the po-
tential dangers of a landslide dam and to propose early
warning and mitigation strategies is important.
Few studies examine immediate damage assess-
ment of a landslide dam. Instead many studies analyze
landslide dams in relation to long-term safety monitor-
ing. However, such information cannot be employed
to determine the rainfall-threshold criterion in relation
to early warnings and downstream disaster evaluation.
This study classified the different danger levels for 17
landslide dams by applying the method mentioned
earlier (Tab. 2). Nonetheless, a more detailed assess-
ment process is required for future studies.
THE PROCESS OF LANDSLIDE DAM RESPONSE
As described in the Disaster Prevention and Re-
sponse Law, different governmental departments in
Taiwan have authority over different hazards. The
Soil and Water Conservation Bureau (SWCB) is in
charge of debris flow and the Water Resource Agen-
cy is in charge of flooding. However, landslide dam
disasters possess the inducements and characteristics
of both flood and sediment hazards, for this reason,
a landslide dam disaster is defined as a compound
disaster. This is why a special response process for
landslide dam disasters is necessary. After typhoon
Morakot, the f
oRestRy
b
uReau
(2009) wrote a docu-
ment draft focusing on landslide dams. The initial co-
operation and the responsibility of each government
department were clarified by discussions, and a basic
consensus was achieved. The National Science Com-
mittee and National Security Affairs provides satel-
lite imagery employed in risk level classification; the
Water Resource Bureau is in charge of the landslide
dam management in the primary level rivers; SWCB
and Forestry Agency are responsible for torrents in
mountainous areas and national forests, respectively;
and local governments are in charge of landslide dam
management for the secondary-level rivers and the
resident evacuation. Each department’s primary au-
thority has been clarified, however details regarding
such operations are lacking and should be legislated.
This study also consulted Japanese regulations
and laws regarding emergency response and disaster
management. In the primary Japanese sediment-haz-
ard laws, the main concerns are rock avalanches, de-
bris flows, and landslides. Until now no studies have
discussed response strategies for landslide dams. This
is because landslide dams are a type of complex disas-
ter, that have only recently grown more important, and
also because many uncertainties regarding the induce-
ment and formation of such dams exist. Additionally,
the affected range regards of such a dam is related to
changes in its size and the downstream elevation. For
these reasons, any warning, monitoring, and evacu-
ation systems should be determined and established
according to actual situations. This study referred to
an initial framework for landslide dams based on the
technological reports on evacuation and disaster man-
agement produced by the Forestry Bureau and Japan
(m
inistRy
of
l
and
, i
nfRastRuCtuRe
, t
RansPoRt
and
t
ouRism
of
J
aPan
, 2009) (Fig.2).
In the first stage, when an un-defined landslide dam
is found, an emergency investigation and announce-
ment are necessary. The purpose of the responding
process is to access the danger related to the landslide
dam and to identify the probability and types of the
dam’s failure. The announcement can be released after
the safety of the landslide dam is assessed. The second
stage involves verifying the detailed information of a
landslide dam and setting up a monitoring system. Si-
multaneously, other strategies are arranged and modi-
fied according to a drill or prior disaster experiences.
When the landslide dam is identified as extremely dan-
gerous, then the emergency management processes are
implemented. The emergency management processes
includes field investigation, monitoring, evacuation of
local residents, and a risk assessment related to the ap-
plication of engineering strategies mentioned earlier. In
some cases, the engineering methods utilized in the sec-
ond stage in attempt to stabilize the landslide dam can
lead to the dam’s crush. In such a situation, the rescue
and evacuation system is still maintained until the dam
is verified not to be dangerous. In the third stage, long-
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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment - Book www.ijege.uniroma1.it © 2011 Casa Editrice Università La Sapienza
659
panying them. Such disasters necessitate both emer-
gency responses and the long-term recovery projects.
The high intensity and concentrated heavy rainfall
brought by typhoon Morakot caused not just land-
slides and debris flow disasters for residents, but also
many landslide dams that submerged downstream
areas. This study clarified the formation and types of
landslide dams and addressed how such dams fail. The
cases triggered by landslide and precipitation showed
different inducements of landslide dams in their char-
acteristics and results. Most typhoon-triggered dams
fail quickly and cause great losses. Conversely, earth-
quake-landslide-trigger dams last longer and cause
fewer losses. This study listed the most dangerous cas-
es of landslide dams produced during typhoon Mora-
kot to compare the differences in their characteristics.
We identified three development types based on their
mechanisms of failure: overtopping erosion, instanta-
neous slip failure, and progressive failure. Most cases
involve progressive failure, in which a stable flow is
achieved and the dam poses no urgent threat.
In the second part of this study, some engineer-
ing and non-engineering strategies for landslide dam
mitigation are explained. The engineering strategies
term disaster management should be considered. The
landslide dams in this stage are mostly stable or crushed
ones. As part of a detailed investigation, long-term
monitoring is carried out to assure the security of both
property and residents. Simultaneously, the engineering
strategies, such as reducing the storage water, reinforc-
ing the dam body and constructing protection facilities,
are performed by different failure types of landslide
dam to reduce the future risk. All of these strategies
should be preserved until the announcement is released.
The two serious natural hazards in Taiwan gen-
erated many landslide dams, most of which failed
quickly. One of the landslide dams triggered by the
Chi-chi earthquake still exists in central Taiwan. The
equipment for monitoring and recording the dam are
still employed and an evacuation system is in place
for potentially dangerous situations. This case could
be a good model for developing a program of disaster
management to avoid landslide dam disasters.
CONCLUSIONS
Disasters triggered by landslide dams have be-
come an important issue because of their complex
mechanism of formation and the uncertainties accom-
Fig. 2 - The processes for responding to
landslide dam disasters
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5th International Conference on Debris-Flow Hazards Mitigation: Mechanics, Prediction and Assessment Padua, Italy - 14-17 June 2011
term mitigation that includes announcement, monitor-
ing, risk assessment, and engineering strategies.
Landslide dam mitigation is a significant issue
that influences the development of downstream areas,
land-use and residential safety. The mitigation strate-
gies offered in this study demonstrate the significance
on the long-term strategies that authorities can plan to
prevent the landslide dam disasters.
emphasized decreasing water levels to reduce both the
water head pressure and erosion on the dam body. The
non-engineering strategies focused on issues of author-
ity and the response process. Regarding the issue of
authority, departments related to landslide dams in Tai-
wan are cooperating in disaster management, however
the regulations are still insufficiently detailed. Regard-
ing the response process, this study discussed the need
for both a well-organized emergency strategy and long-
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