Assessment of landslide hazards resulting from the February 13, 2001, El Salvador earthquake; a report to the government of El Salvador and the U. S. Agency for International Development

Open-File Report 2001-119
By: , and 



On February 13, 2001, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake occurred about 40 km eastsoutheast of the capital city of San Salvador in central El Salvador and triggered thousands of landslides in the area east of Lago de Ilopango. The landslides are concentrated in a 2,500-km2 area and are particularly abundant in areas underlain by thick deposits of poorly consolidated, late Pleistocene and Holocene Tierra Blanca rhyolitic tephras that were erupted from Ilopango caldera. Drainages in the tephra deposits are deeply incised, and steep valley walls failed during the strong shaking. Many drainages are clogged with landslide debris that locally buries the adjacent valley floor. The fine grain-size of the tephra facilitates its easy mobilization by rainfall runoff. The potential for remobilizing the landslide debris as debris flows and in floods is significant as this sediment is transported through the drainage systems during the upcoming rainy season. In addition to thousands of shallow failures, two very large landslides occurred that blocked the Rio El Desague and the Rio Jiboa. The Rio El Desague landslide has an estimated volume of 1.5 million m3, and the Rio Jiboa landslide has an estimated volume of 12 million m3. Field studies indicate that catastrophic draining of the Rio El Desague landslide-dammed lake would pose a minimal flooding hazard, whereas catastrophic draining of the Rio Jiboa lake would pose a serious hazard and warrants immediate action. Construction of a spillway across part of the dam could moderate the impact of catastrophic lake draining and the associated flood. Two major slope failures on the northern side of Volcan San Vicente occurred in the upper reaches of Quebrada Del Muerto and the Quebrada El Blanco. The landslide debris in the Quebrada Del Muerto consists dominantly of blocks of well-lithified andesite, whereas the debris in the Quebrada El Blanco consists of poorly consolidated pyroclastic sediment. The large blocks of lithified rock in Quebrada Del Muerto are unlikely to be remobilized during the rainy season; whereas, the sandy and silty landslide debris in the channel of Quebrada El Blanco is susceptible to remobilization as debris flows that could extend into populated areas on the lower slopes of the volcano. Around the northern and eastern shore of Lago de Ilopango, earthquake-induced liquefaction and lateral-spreading landslides caused local damage to homes and other structures; this damage was most prevalent in the village of San Agustin. San Agustin is also potentially threatened by floods because it is located on the alluvial fan of the Quebrada El Chaguite drainage basin, which contains hundreds of landslides that have choked numerous small channels with volcanic tephra. As the easily eroded tephra is transported down the drainage system and deposited on the alluvial fan, it could clog the currently active channel with sediment, divert the stream into a new channel, and possibly direct flow through San Agustin, causing more damage and destruction
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Assessment of landslide hazards resulting from the February 13, 2001, El Salvador earthquake; a report to the government of El Salvador and the U. S. Agency for International Development
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2001-119
DOI 10.3133/ofr01119
Edition Version 1.0
Year Published 2001
Language ENGLISH
Description 20 p.
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