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Open-File Report 02-0061

Digital Inventory of Landslides and Related Deposits in Honduras Triggered by Hurricane Mitch

By Edwin L. Harp, Kirk W. Hagaman, Matthew D. Held, and Jonathan P. McKenna

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Open-File Report
English-language PDF (14 MB)
Abstract

Intense rainfall from Hurricane Mitch from October 27-31, 1998, exceeded 900 mm in places in Honduras and triggered in excess of 500,000 landslides throughout the country. Landslides damaged an estimated 70% of the road network in Honduras based on estimates by the U. S Army Corps of Engineers. Numbers of fatalities due to landslides are not accurately known due to the fact that numerous small villages throughout Honduras lost residents to landslides without an official count being recorded. A conservative estimate would place the number at near 1,000.

Debris flows accounted for over 95% of the landslides and ranged in thickness from 1 to 15 m. Flow path lengths of these failures ranged from several meters to 7.5 km. The highest concentrations of debris flows occurred in the mountains near the town of Choluteca where over 900 mm of rain fell in three days.

Although landslides other than debris flows were few, several deep-seated landslides in the city of Tegucigalpa severely impacted people and property. The "El Berrinche" rotational slump/earth flow of approximately six million cubic meters volume destroyed the entire neighborhood of Colonia Soto near the center of the city. The landslide also dammed the Río Choluteca and created a lagoon behind the landslide dam, which immediately posed a health problem for the city, because raw, untreated sewage was emptying into the Río Choluteca.

Several areas of highly concentrated landslides have been responsible for much of the flooding problem as well. Huge sediment influxes from landslide source areas near La Ceiba, La Libertád, Marale, and in several arms of El Cajón Reservoir have reduced stream capacities to practically nothing and have exacerbated flooding conditions in even the moderate rainfall seasons since Hurricane Mitch.

The ongoing hazard to communities from landslides triggered during Hurricane Mitch are being analyzed using aerial photography taken by the U.S. Air Force and by supplemental photography taken by local contractors. Through the use of digital elevation models derived from 1:50,000-scale topographic maps and geologic maps, landslide susceptibility maps will be derived to aid land-use planning and relocation efforts.

Version 1.0

Posted May 2002


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