AVERTING PREDICTED LANDSLIDE CATASTROPHES: WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Today landslide science is more complete than at the time of the Vajont catastrophe, although some way from being perfect. However, a factor is still present that allowed the Vajont disaster, and a number of other catastrophes since, to occur - organisational and governmental reluctance to acknowledge the unacceptably high probability of a specific disaster and take actions to avert it. At three tourism centres in New Zealand there is substantive evidence that a large landslide can be triggered by an earthquake; and that each event can cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage and up to several hundred deaths (depending on the timing of the event). There can be no useful warning of any of these events. Risk analyses suggest that the risks are in all cases some orders of magnitude greater than acceptable societal levels. Further investigation could clarify all these risks, but local and national authorities are reluctant to pursue this. The uptake of science by decision - and policy-makers is constrained by short-term economic and political considerations. The relevant science needs to published and publicised in such a way that it can neither be misunderstood nor ignored.
Tim Davies - University of Canterbury - Department of Geological Sciences - Private Bag 4800 - Christchurch, New Zealand