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Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment - Book Series (6) www.ijege.uniroma1.it © 2013 Sapienza Università
Editrice
295
DOI: 10.4408/IJEGE.2013-06.B-27
“REMOTE” LANDSLIDE-RELATED HAZARDS
AND THEIR CONSIDERATION FOR DAMS DESIGN
A
lexAnder
STROM
(*)
&
AnAtoly
ZHIRKEVICH
(**)
(*)
Geodynamics Research Center - Branch of JSC “Hydroproject Institute” - Moscow, Russia
(**)
JSC “Hydroproject Institute” - Moscow, Russia
mass into reservoir does not exhaust negative effects
of landslides that must be taken into consideration in
the course of dams design. Severe consequences might
result from river channel blockage both downstream
from the dam site and upstream from the reservoir. The
former case will be described hereafter while the latter
one can be exemplified by the 1970 Huascaran rock-ice
avalanche. It blocked the Rio Santa River and converted
into powerful debris flow that travelled 180 km along
the stream destroying the Cañon del Pato storage dam
more than 45 km downstream from the rock avalanche
site (P
lAfker
& e
riksen
, 1978; e
vAns
et alii, 2009).
These scenarios have been analysed within the
frames of geological and hydrological investigations
carried out for largest hydraulic schemes implemented
in the Central Asia region - the Rogun dam on the Va-
khsh River in Tajikistan and the Kambarata-1 & 2 dams
on the Naryn River in Kyrgyzstan, which position is
shown on Fig. 1. Some measures aimed to prevent or
mitigate negative effects of “remote” hazards provided
by extreme landslide-related events are discussed.
ROGUN DAM PROJECT, TAJIKISTAN
1993 BLOCKAGE OF THE VAKSH RIVER
DOWNSTREAM FROM THE ROGUN DAM SITE
The 335 m high Rogun dam on the Vakhsh River
in Tajikistan that should be the world highest earth-fill
structure have been under construction since late 80s
of the twentieth century. On May 8, 1993, powerful
debris flow that originated in the Obi-Shur Creek that
ABSTRACT
The 1963 Vajont disaster highlighted the impor-
tance of slopes stability analysis not only directly at the
dam sites but also in the reservoir areas to ensure hy-
draulic projects safety. However, catastrophic collapse
of huge rock/soil mass into reservoir does not exhaust
negative effects of landslides that must be taken into
consideration in the course of dams design. Severe
consequences might result from river channel landslide
damming both downstream from the dam site and far
upstream from the reservoir. Their potential effects are
exemplified by several case studies from the Central
Asia region. Measures aimed to mitigate negative ef-
fects of such extreme events are discussed.
K
ey
words
: rockslide dam, outburst flood, debris flow
INTRODUCTION
The 1963 Vajont disaster highlighted the impor-
tance of identification of potentially unstable slopes
identification not only directly at the dam sites but
also in the reservoir areas to ensure hydraulic projects
safety (M
uller
, 1964; s
eMenzA
, 2010; P
Aronuzzi
&
B
ollA
, 2012). Neither favourable geological condi-
tions of the Vajont dam foundation nor excellent struc-
tural design of the dam that sustained the event much
beyond the design basis had prevented the catastrophe
caused by water splashed out from the reservoir by
giant and extremely rapid rockslide.
However, catastrophic collapse of huge rock/soil
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A. STROM & A. ZHIRKEVICH
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International Conference Vajont 1963-2013. Thoughts and analyses after 50 years since the catastrophic landslide Padua, Italy - 8-10 October 2013
rockslides and surging glaciers in the upper reaches
of the Vakhsh River basin, which breach can result in
powerful outburst flood, was also performed for the
Rogun dam project. The purpose of this study was to
estimate excessive inflow into reservoir that should be
considered, along with extreme ‘hydro-meteorologi-
cal’ flood (PMF), to ensure dams’ safety.
The entire catchment area of Vakhsh River up-
stream the Rogun dam site (Fig. 5) was checked us-
ing the remote sensing data available (Landsat ETM7
with 15 m and KFA-1000 with 5-10 m spatial resolu-
tion) to identify sites where large-scale river-damming
resulting in lake formation can be anticipated.
Several sites where main stream could be blocked
by surging glaciers were identified (see Fig. 5) based
on the history of glacier rapid advances in the past
(o
siPovA
et alii, 1998). Though at present such phe-
nomena are hardly possible due to intensive glaciers
retreat in the Varhsh River basin (k
otlyAkov
, 2006),
its potential hazard must be analysed with due regard
to centuries-long life time of large hydraulic project
such as the Rogun HPP. Maximal volume of lakes
considered as the worst scenario in case of such surges
was estimated as ca 170 Mm
3
.
Despite rugged relief typical of almost entire
study area and its high overall landslide susceptibility
falls into Vakhsh River just downstream from the dam
site (Fig. 2) had blocked the Vakhsh River channel. It
brought diversion tunnels out of operation, caused in-
undation of the underground power house and breach
of the cofferdam that resulted in years-long suspen-
sion of construction works.
The 57,4 km
2
Obi-Shur catchment (see Fig. 2)
produces regular debris flows. Maximal measured
discharge recorded before construction had started, in
May 19-20, 1983, was 1150 m
3
/sec. Rough estimates
based on the height of debris flow traces on the walls
of the Obi-Shur gorge (Fig. 3) gives even higher value
of about 1 500-1 700 m
3
/sec for an undated earlier de-
bris flow. Density of debris flow deposits can reach
2.3-2.4 tons/m
3
.According to observations tempo-
rary damming of Vakhsh River stream occurs every
ten years on an average being caused by debris flows
which volume can exceed 2.5 million m
3
.
At present, after construction recommencement,
special measures are undertaken to prevent similar
phenomena. They include construction of the cellular
concrete dam at the lower reach of the Obi-Shur Creek
aimed to intercept the coarsest fraction of debris, that
forms the skeleton of blockage and allowing water and
fines that can be easily removed by the river to pass
through the holes in the dam. On June 22, 2012, before
completion of this protection dam, it stopped debris
flow that lasted for about 7 minutes only, but with es-
timated peak discharge of ca 1 300-1 400 m
3
/sec. 290-
350 m
3
/sec of it passed through the dam and was carried
out by Vakhsh river and about 280 000 m
3
of debris was
accumulated upstream from the dam (Fig. 4).
POSSIBILITY OF UPSTREAM RIVER DAMMING
Analysis of the possibility of river’s damming by
Fig. 1 - Position of the Rogun (R) and Kambarata (K1
& K2) dam sites in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
T - the Toktogul reservoir; S - the Sonkul lake
Fig. 2 - Obi-Shur Creek catchment area on 3” SRTM DEM
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“REMOTE” LANDSLIDE-RELATED HAZARDS AND THEIR CONSIDERATION FOR DAMS DESIGN
Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment - Book Series (6) www.ijege.uniroma1.it © 2013 Sapienza Università
Editrice
297
Rogun reservoir (~160 km) even in worst case with
peak discharge estimate immediately downstream
from the breached dam of 134 000 m
3
/s it would de-
crease at the tail part of the Rogun reservoir up to 5
700 m
3
/s. Daily mean discharge at this section could
reach 2 400 m
3
/s and total amount of the "additional"
inflow - 200 million m
3
. Considering size of reser-
voir at normal operating level from 1240 to 1290 m
such amount could increase water level up to 1.3-1.5
m only. Thus, the excessive increase of the maximal
flood level caused by outburst flood would be close
to its assessment accuracy, considering back-wash
and normative dams’ freeboard. Though such exces-
sive reservoir level would not provide significant
risk, possible measures aimed to its mitigation are
discussed in the conclusive section.
KAMBARATA-1 & 2 DAMS PROJECT,
KYRGYZSTAN
The Kambarata hydraulic scheme on the Naryn
River in Kyrgyzstan includes the 60-m high rock-
filled Kambarata-2 dam constructed in 2009 imme-
only few sites where large landslides could originate
casing blockage of main streams and formation of vo-
luminous dammed lakes were identified.
The largest anticipated blockage could occur
in the middle reaches of the Muksu River valley in
Northern Pamirs (see Fig. 5). Here, at 39º7’ N, 71º45’
E, several large rockslides had occurred in the past on
the 1.0-1.5 km high steep slopes causing river dam-
ming (B
esstrAshnov
et alii, 2013). None of these
dams survived. Such clustering typical of large-scale
bedrock landslides in many parts of Central Asian
mountains (s
troM
& A
BdrAkhMAtov
, 2004) can be
considered as indication of increased probability of
future failures within such node.
Assuming that rock slope failure in the rela-
tively narrow valley could produce a dam with effec-
tive height of about 100 m, the dammed lake could
store ca 200 Mm
3
of water - slightly more than those
dammed by surging glaciers. Further calculations of
the outburst flood parameters were performed based
on worst scenario of complete failure of such rock-
slide dam caused by combined effect of both over-
topping and piping, which seems to be quite con-
servative. Due to large distance from the site to the
Fig. 3 - Mud pasted by debris flow at the wall of the Obi-
Shur gorge. Person sitting in the cavity (see the
inset) is about 1.2 m high, thus debris flow thick-
ness (double-head arrow) was about 6 m. Photo-
graph was made in 1978
Fig. 5 - Vakhsh River catchment area for the Rogun dam
site (R). Site of the Muksu River potential rock-
slide damming is marked by open circle; black
dots mark sites where river damming by surging
glaciers could be anticipated
Fig. 4 - June 22, 2012 debris flow in the Obi-Shur Creek
stored by the protection dam. Photo courtesy V.S.
Panteleev
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A. STROM & A. ZHIRKEVICH
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International Conference Vajont 1963-2013. Thoughts and analyses after 50 years since the catastrophic landslide Padua, Italy - 8-10 October 2013
sediments were found upstream. Nevertheless, if simi-
lar slope failure will occur here in future, that can be
assumed based on the evidence of present-day slope
instability (Fig. 8) even temporary blockage several
dozens meters high could inundate the Kambarata-1
powerhouse about 5.5 km upstream. Besides, an in-
evitable breach of such dam could severely affect the
downstream Kambarata-2 dam, which freeboard is not
large enough to accommodate such outburst flood.
Special technical measures aimed to prevent such
effects include excavation of the bypass channel across
river meander shown as triple black line on Fig. 6. If
local topography does not allow such a solution, like at
site ‘B’ on Fig. 6 where river-damming rock-slide had
occurred in the past too (s
troM
, 2012a) and evidence of
present slope instability could be found above this an-
cient headscarp (see Fig. 8) landslide monitoring and,
if necessary, slope stabilization measures should be an-
ticipated to minimize possible negative effects.
EVIDENCE OF PAST OUTBURST FLOODS EX-
CEEDING ANTICIPATED PMF DISCHARGE
Evidence of past outburst floods that exceeded sig-
nificantly both maximal observed discharge values and
PMF estimates have been found in the Naryn River
basin immediately downstream from the Kambarata-1
dam site (point ‘C’ on Fig. 6) (s
troM
, 2012a) and far up-
stream in the Kokomeren River valley (s
troM
, 2012b).
diately upstream from the Toktogul overyear stor-
age reservoir and the 270-m high Kambarata-1 dam
about 10 km upstream (Fig. 6), which construction
is planned in the near future. The Kambarata-2 dam
was partially built by powerful explosion and partially
filled by rock mass (t
orgoev
et alii, 2013).
The Naryn River valley have numerous evidence
of past slope instabilities that had caused river dam-
ming, inundation and powerful outburst floods (s
troM
,
2012a). Several sites where similar phenomena could
occur in future resulting in complex negative effects
on these hydraulic power plants have been identified
as well, both at the river valley section between dam
sites and upstream from the upper reservoir.
POSSIBILITY OF STREAM BLOCKING AND
KAMBARATA-1 POWERHOUSE INUNDATION
Several sites of the potential river-damming events
that could result in inundation of the Kambarata-1
powerhouse have been found between the Dam 1 and
Dam 2 sites (Fig. 6). Large-scale bedrock landslides
caved from the slopes marked by ‘A’ and ‘B’ in the
past, which is proved by the presence of rock ava-
lanche deposits. At both sites rock avalanche deposits
rest at the opposite banks of the Naryn River indicating
that the stream had been blocked. At site ‘A’ block-
age occurred twice - in Late Plestocene and in Holo-
cene by rock avalanches up to 10-15 Mm
3
each (Fig.
7), though, most likely, for a short time, since no lake
Fig. 6 - Position of the potentially unstable slopes between the Kambarata-1 & 2 dam sites. 1 - the proposed Kambarata-1
dam; 2 -Kambarata-2 dam constructed in 2009; triple black line - bypass channel under construction. Brief descrip-
tion of sites A-C is given in the text
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“REMOTE” LANDSLIDE-RELATED HAZARDS AND THEIR CONSIDERATION FOR DAMS DESIGN
Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment - Book Series (6) www.ijege.uniroma1.it © 2013 Sapienza Università
Editrice
299
One more relatively large Aik-Kiol rockslide-
dammed lake in the valley of a small unnamed left
tributary of the Kokomeren River about 55 km up-
stream from the Kambarata-1 dam site (41º43.5’ N,
73º57.6’ E, Fig. 10) stores about 3-4 Mm
3
of water.
The ca 220 m high Aik-Kiol dam located in hardly
attainable valley have not been studied yet with such
deathliness as the above mentioned Ak-Kiol dam. Its
morphology shows that at present the dam is stable,
At point ‘C’ tree trunks 40-50 cm thick were found on a
right bank terrace of the Naryn River about 5 m above
the mean stream level. Such trunks could be brought here
by an abnormally powerful flood with peak discharge of
about 6 000-7 000 m
3
/sec and, possibly, up to 10 000 m
3
/
sec - 2-3 times more than maximal flood ever recorded
in this part of the Naryn River. These estimates exceed
the assumed PMF value of the Naryn River accepted for
the Kambarata-1 & 2 Project. Search of possible causes
of such flood revealed that an excessive discharge could
be produced by breach either of a landslide-dammed
lake in small tributary valley or in the large valleys of
Naryn or of its main tributary - the Kokomeren River
(s
troM
, 2012a). Similar phenomena could be antici-
pated in future, which require special analysis and some
prevention or mitigation measures, if necessary.
One potential source is a drained lake in the Un-
kursay River valley - left tributary of the Kokomeren
River, nearly 2 km down-stream from the existing Ak-
Kiol Lake (Fig. 9). This Lower Ak-Kiol dam (41º42.4’
N, 74º16.8’ E,) was breached rather recently. A distinct
stripe of fossilized lake algae about 15 m above the
present day valley bottom indicates its single-event
emptying that had released 2-3 million cubic meters
of water (s
troM
, 2012a). The Ak-Kiol lake (41º41.1’
N, 74º17’ E,) that stores 2.7 Mm
3
of water (T
orgoev
& e
rohin
, 2012) being located about 85 km from the
Kambarata-1 dam site, could be breached catastrophi-
cally producing flood and debris flow formation that
would devastate lower reaches of the Unkursai River
(t
orgoev
& e
rohin
, 2012).
Fig. 7 - Past rock avalanche deposits between the Kam-
barata-1 and 2 dam sites. Headscarp marked by
small arrows is shown as site ‘A’ on Figure 6. The
younger - Q
IV
rock avalanche deposits partially
overlay those of the Q
III
rock avalanche
Fig. 8 - Small scarps (marked by arrows) on top of the
ridge above slope ‘B’ on Figure 5 indicating its
ongoing instability
Fig. 9 - Aerial photograph of rockslide dammed lakes in the
Unkursai River valley. A - the existing Ak-Kiol lake;
B - swampy area of the drained Lower Ak-Kiol lake
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A. STROM & A. ZHIRKEVICH
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International Conference Vajont 1963-2013. Thoughts and analyses after 50 years since the catastrophic landslide Padua, Italy - 8-10 October 2013
but could be breached in case of extreme rainstorm or
snow melt that could cause its overtopping.
Due to limited amount of water that could be
released and significant distance from the Kam-
barata-1 reservoir breach of these lakes would not
provide any hazard for the dam with large reservoir
but should be considered for the much smaller Kam-
barata-2 Project. It could cause, first, the excessive
sediment yield and abnormally high siltation of the
shallow reservoir and, second, inflow that could ex-
ceed the existing spillway capacity.
One more potentially hazardous water body - the
moraine Petrov Lake containing 65 Mm
3
of water,
39 million of which could be drained in case of dam
breach (t
orgoev
et alii, 2012) is located at the glaci-
ated source of the Naryn River. Despite its large vol-
ume, due to very large distance from the reservoirs in
question (about 600 km from the Kambarata-1 dam
site) its breach could hardly have a significant effect on
the Kambarata dams, unless it would coincide with the
extreme flood caused by rainstorm or snowmelt, which
probability is rather low.
Most severe effects could be anticipated if rock-
slide would block main streams of the Naryn and
Kokomeren Rivers, resulting in formation of a large
water body dozens or even hundreds millions cubic
meters in volume as it had happened here repeatedly
in the past, in Late Pleistocene and in Holocene.
It could be exemplified by the Lower Aral rockslide
dam (s
troM
, 2012b) that had blocked the Kokomeren
River valley at 41º47.9’ N, 74º17.3’ E, about 40 km up-
stream from its mouth. Rock avalanche had originated
on top of the ridge, moved for about 2 km towards the
valley and, finally, caved into deep gorge splitting into
two parts (Fig. 11); the upstream one formed the 70-m
high dam that created a lake about 12 km long stor-
ing up to 200 Mm
3
of water. Its catastrophic release
years after the impoundment (which follow from the
presence of laminated silt more than 5 m thick 7 km
upstream) caused outburst flood with peak discharge up
to 28 000-30 000 m
3
/sec (s
troM
, 2012b).
Considering abnormally high landslide suscepti-
bility of the area along the Naryn-Lower Kokomeren
valleys that coincides with the fault zone stretching
for more than 120 km between Ketmen-Tiube depres-
sion filled by the Toktogul reservoir and the Sonkul
depression with the same-name lake (marked by
‘T’ and ‘S’ on Fig. 1) and its high seismic potential
(s
troM
, 2012a; h
Avenith
et alii., 2013) possibil-
ity of future large-scale slope failures upstream from
the Kambarata-1 reservoir could not be excluded and
must be taken into account when choosing preferable
type of the dam, its height, reservoir normal and maxi-
mal operating levels and the spillway capacity.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Both case studies, described above, as well as
other examples from the same region (A
siAn
d
evel
-
oPMent
B
Ank
, 2006; s
troM
, 2010; h
Avenith
et alii,
2013) and from other parts of the World (C
ostA
&
s
Chuster
, 1988; s
Chuster
& e
vAns
, 2011), demon-
strate that landslides and debris flows originating
far from the dam site and reservoir area can pose a
significant threat for hydraulic structures in mountain
regions and that possibility of such phenomena oc-
currence must be taken into account in the course of
dams’ design. It is especially important considering
centuries-long life time of many hydraulic schemes
Fig. 10 - 3D view of the Aik-Kiol rockslide dammed lake
about 500×700 m in size and its catchment area.
Distance between points with elevations of 2340
m and 2155 m is about 2.8 km
Fig. 11 - Overview of the Lower-Aral rock avalanche.
White arrows show its travel path from the head-
scarp on top of the ridge towards the deposi-
tional zone in the more than 500 m deep gorge of
Kokomeren River
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“REMOTE” LANDSLIDE-RELATED HAZARDS AND THEIR CONSIDERATION FOR DAMS DESIGN
Italian Journal of Engineering Geology and Environment - Book Series (6) www.ijege.uniroma1.it © 2013 Sapienza Università
Editrice
301
of main triggering factors (i.e. rainstorms, snowmelt,
river erosion, etc.). Unscheduled inspections must be
performed after any extreme events that might trigger
large-scale slope failures such as strong earthquakes
and abnormally strong rainstorms.
Important component of such monitoring system
is regular hydrological measurements in the main
streams entering a reservoir. Any abnormal drop of the
discharge indicates argent necessity of the catchment
inspection. We should point out that, on the one hand,
larger the landslide blockage is, more hazard it pro-
vides, potentially, due to larger amount of stored wa-
ter. On the other hand, however, larger natural dam re-
quires more time to infill the lake, thus allowing more
time to arrange protective measures (n
eshikhovskiy
,
1988; s
hAng
et alii, 2003; C
ui
et alii, 2009; s
Chuster
& e
vAns
, 2011). Besides such damming results in a
significant decrease of the inflow into reservoir, thus
supporting its level lowering to get more space to ac-
commodate water delivered by outburst flood.
The most striking example is the famous Lake Sa-
rez. Being formed in 1911 by gigantic Usoi rockslide
in the remote area of Pamirs mountains it poses a po-
tential treat to the Bartang, Pianj and Amu-Daria River
valleys with population of about 5 million (UN, 2000).
Till now, more than 100 years after its formation, the
blockage seems to be stable with freeboard of about 38
m (i
sChuk
, 2011). However, in long-term perspective,
considering quite complex geotechnical, seismological
and hydrological situation, it is unlikely that its safety
can be ensured without special protection measures al-
lowing artificial lake level lowering. Such measures,
which are high technical and expensive, could be per-
formed only, while situation is stable. If, due to any
reason, hazard of dams’ breach will increase, there
could be no time to carry out long-term construction
works at this hardly attainable area. Besides regional
security matters, pendency of the Sarez Lake prob-
lem could prevent development of any large hydraulic
scheme in the lower reaches of the Pianj River.
Case studies described above demonstrate that
study of the potentially unstable slopes that can pro-
duce river damming down-stream from the HPP and
upstream from the reservoir within the catchment
area must be performed to ensure safety of hydraulic
schemes and that such surveys must be included as
mandatory activities in the corresponding national and
international guidelines.
with high dams and large reservoirs. Though it could
be difficult to foresee precisely what could occur
within such a long-term time span, we must, never-
theless, anticipate possible negative consequences
and related risks.
If potential hazards are identified and quantified
with sufficient accuracy than measures aimed to miti-
gate or, even, to prevent negative effects could be ar-
ranged. It is very important to carry out these measures
timely, which will provide maximal effect. Considering
the Obi-Shur debris flows described above, construc-
tion of the protection dam (or any alternative debris
flow protection activities) should have been performed
prior to construction works at the Rogun dam site itself,
which could prevent years-long suspension of Project
implementation and significant economic losses.
Most cardinal measure is the construction of
a structure ensuring free water flow in case of any
stream-damming event. It could be either a bypass
channel like that one across the large meander of the
Naryn River shown on Fig. 6, protecting the Kam-
barata-1 power-house from inundation and relatively
small Kambarata-2 dam from destruction by outburst
flood or a diversion tunnel that was proposed in the
Vakhsh River section affected by the Baipaza land-
slide that endanger the Baipaza HPP upstream and
the Sangtuda HPP down-stream (A
siAn
d
eveloPMent
B
Ank
, 2006; h
Avenith
et alii, 2013). We should note
that, despite real hazard posed by this landslide, con-
struction of the tunnel have not started yet.
The design and construction of such structures
is, however, quite expensive. Thus, if and where the
potential “remote” hazards are identified, regular
monitoring must be performed as an economically
reasonable alternative. It could be based on wide use
of modern remote sensing techniques such as analysis
of high resolution optical space images (s
Ato
& h
ArP
,
2009) and radiometric (INSAR) data (B
urgMAnn
,
2000; C
AtAni
et alii, 2005; C
olesAnti
& W
AsoWski
,
2006) for regular inspection of the state-of-the-art of
both large catchment areas and specific sites. Sit-spe-
cific inspections can be accompanied by airborne and/
or ground-based laser scanning that provide quantita-
tive DEM of the study area with high accuracy (J
A
-
Boyedoff
et alii, 2012) and by ground based radio-
metric monitoring (A
ntonello
et alii, 2004). Survey
intervals should be assigned with due regard of the re-
currence of hazardous phenomena and of the character
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A. STROM & A. ZHIRKEVICH
302
International Conference Vajont 1963-2013. Thoughts and analyses after 50 years since the catastrophic landslide Padua, Italy - 8-10 October 2013
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