2006 Southern Leyte mudslide
A massive rock slide-debris avalanche occurred on 17 February 2006 in the Philippine
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

Provinces of the Philippines
The Provinces of the Philippines are the primary political and administrative divisions of the Philippines. There are 80 provinces at present, further subdivided into component cities and municipalities. The National Capital Region, as well as independent cities, are autonomous from any provincial...

 of Southern Leyte
Southern Leyte
Southern Leyte is a province of the Philippines located in the Eastern Visayas region. Maasin City is the capital of the province. Southern Leyte was once a sub-province of Leyte before it was divided from the latter...

 that caused widespread damage and loss of life. The deadly landslide followed a ten-day period of heavy rains and a minor earthquake
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time...

 of magnitude 2.6 on the Richter scale. The official death toll was 1,126.


At about 10:30 in the morning on 17 February 2006, a cliff face of a ridge straddling the Philippine Fault collapsed in a combination rockslide-debris avalanche event, translocating and subsequently burying Guinsaugon village in the town of Saint Bernard
Saint Bernard, Southern Leyte
Saint Bernard is a 4th class municipality in the province of Southern Leyte, Philippines. According to the 2000 census, it had a population of 23,089 people in 4,746 households....

. Up to ten smaller landslides had occurred within the previous week in the vicinity of St. Bernard, but Guinsaugon was the worst-hit community.

Among the worst of the tragedies was the burial of the local elementary school, located nearest to the mountain ridge, as the landslide occurred when school was in session and full of children. Provincial Governor Rosette Lerias said at the time the school had 246 students and seven teachers; only a child and an adult was rescued immediately after the disaster transpired. About 80 women who participated in the celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Guinsaugon Women's Health Association were also lost in the avalanche.

Lerias said that although several residents had left the area last week due to the fear of landslides, several of them had returned when the rains had eased.

Rescue and relief

Rescue teams including troops from the military
Armed Forces of the Philippines
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is composed of the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force...

 were operating in the affected areas. However, relief efforts are hampered by rain, chest-deep mud, roads blocked by boulders, washed-out bridges, and lack of heavy equipment. A minor earthquake in the morning of 17 February also affected the relief operation as the ground remained unstable.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made an address on television stating that "help is on the way". Navy and coast guard ships were dispatched to the coastal area.

On 17 February 2006, Philippine National Red Cross chairman Richard J. Gordon
Richard Gordon (politician)
Richard "Dick" Juico Gordon is a Filipino politician and broadcaster who currently serves as the chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross....

 who was then in Geneva attending a boardmeeting of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide which was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human...

 appealed for international assistance.
He raised US $1.5 million to help the victims of the mudslides. The funds will be used to purchase tents, blankets, cooking utensils, mosquito nets, temporary shelter materials, hygiene articles, water purification tablets and medicines. US $152,000 has already been released to provide initial assistance. A relief plane was being flown into the region carrying emergency trauma kits, rubber boots, ropes, clothing, flashlights and medicine. Three Philippines National Red Cross teams with search and rescue dog
Search and rescue dog
The use of dogs in search and rescue is a valuable component in wilderness tracking, natural disasters, mass casualty events, and in locating missing people. Dedicated handlers and well-trained dogs are required for the use of dogs to be effective in search efforts...

s were at the site to provide assistance and more are expected to join. The Red Cross said that it feared that the death toll would be high.

The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 sent three naval vessels, the USS Curtis Wilbur
USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54)
USS Curtis Wilbur is the fourth Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. Curtis Wilbur was named for Curtis D. Wilbur, forty-third Secretary of the Navy, who served under President Calvin Coolidge....

, USS Essex
USS Essex (LHD-2)
USS Essex is a built at what is now Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and commissioned on 17 October 1992 while moored at North Island NAS beside the Kitty Hawk . It is the fifth ship named for Essex County, Massachusetts...

, USS Harpers Ferry with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit is one of seven Marine Expeditionary Units currently in existence in the United States Marine Corps. The Marine Expeditionary Unit is a Marine Air Ground Task Force with a strength of about 2,200 personnel...

, to the area to provide assistance.

About 6,000 U.S. Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 and Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 troops are in the Philippines for an annual bilateral exercise. The US government has also donated $100,000 worth of disaster equipment to the Philippine National Red Cross. USAID has turned over 2.9 million pesos (about $560,000) worth of food and non-food items.

Other countries have donated or pledged assistance to the Philippine government. China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 offered a donation of $1 million in cash and material. Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 also offered AUS$1 million ($740,000) in immediate relief. Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 pledged enough medicine to treat 3,000 individuals for a month and a half along with $100,000. Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 also pledged $100,000. Malaysia sent a 60-man search-and-rescue and medical assistance team named the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance Team (SMART). Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, through a non-government organization, the Unidad Canina de Rescate y Salvamento, sent a six-man rescue team equipped with five sniffer dog
Detection dog
A detection dog or sniffer dog is a dog that is trained to and works at using its senses to detect substances such as explosives, illegal drugs, or blood. Hunting dogs that search for game and search dogs that search for missing humans are generally not considered detection dogs...

s to aid in the relief and rescue efforts. South Korea promised $1 million. New Zealand would send $133,000 to be used in future rescue operations. Singapore has said, according to a statement from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, that officials would help the Arroyo administration in any way possible. Indonesia and Turkey have offered humanitarian contingents as well.

The Philippine National Red Cross reported that 53 persons were rescued from the mud on 17 February, but the rescue efforts had to be suspended at nightfall for safety reasons.

Possible causes

Philippine congressman Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte claimed in a Reuters
Reuters is a news agency headquartered in New York City. Until 2008 the Reuters news agency formed part of a British independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data...

 interview that logging and mining done in the area three decades ago was the main culprit. Dave Petley, professor at the International Landslide Centre, Durham University
Durham University
The University of Durham, commonly known as Durham University, is a university in Durham, England. It was founded by Act of Parliament in 1832 and granted a Royal Charter in 1837...

, told the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 that the causes Congressman Mercado mentioned, if proven true, created a "dangerous combination" that produced a "classic landslide scenario".

However, local government officials and eyewitnesses say that the area was well forested and the governor's office said that deforestation logging activities were not the causal factor.

Experts did agree that torrential rains lasting two weeks before the mudslide was the main cause for the disaster. Rainfall amounting to over 200 cm (79 inches) in ten days loosened the soil so much that the resulting sludge and rocks thundered down the slopes of nearby Mount Can-abag, virtually disintegrating it. The La Niña
La Niña
La Niña is a coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon that is the counterpart of El Niño as part of the broader El Niño-Southern Oscillation climate pattern. During a period of La Niña, the sea surface temperature across the equatorial Eastern Central Pacific Ocean will be lower than normal by 3–5 °C...

 weather phenomenon was blamed for the non-stop rains that occurred in the province, as well as in the Caraga
Caraga is an administrative region of the Philippines, on the northeastern portion of the island of Mindanao. It is the newest region in the Philippines and is also called Region XIII. The Caraga Region was created through Republic Act No. 7901 on February 25, 1995...

 region, which is due south of Leyte. San Francisco, Agusan del Sur
San Francisco, Agusan del Sur
San Francisco is a 1st class municipality in the province of Agusan del Sur, Philippines. It has a population : 62,881 people in 14,917 households with registered voters of : 33,577. The municipality's land area is 39,253 ha....

 mayor Carie Ladernora declared the state of calamity on her town by 12 February 2006.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology recorded a magnitude 2.6 earthquake in Southern Leyte just prior to the landslide although the effects of this are unclear.

2008 workshop

After two years, the international geoscience community including experts from Japan, Canada, United States, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Hong Kong, UK, Taiwan and the Philippines, came together in Tacloban and St. Bernard to examine known information on the Guinsaugon disaster. In addition, the workshop was tasked with determining the next steps as Leyte and the Philippines move forward from the world's deadliest single-event landslide since 1998. The landslide is classified as a rock slide-debris avalanche using the Varnes (1978) or Cruden and Varnes (1996) classification. Volume estimates in recent publications range between 14 Mm3 and 20 Mm3, converging on or about 15 Mm3. There is general accord among scientists that high precipitation a week prior to the failure contributed to the conditions at failure, but the 5 day delay between the rain and the landslide, and the fact that Southern Leyte regularly gets high overall levels of precipitation means that the precise nature of that contribution is unknown. Similarly, the role of minor ground shaking that occurred at about the same time is still uncertain. "Was the landslide caused by ground shaking or excessive rain? This is one of the things that is not yet resolved." said Dr. Mark Albert Zarco, a professor at the Department of Engineering Sciences, University of the Philippines Diliman in a news story. Importantly, the geological and geomorphological history of the slope including, for example, the prominent strike-slip movement of about 2.5 cm per year, has ultimately lead to failures all along the scarp, including the one that buried Guinsaugon. Richard Guthrie, of University of Waterloo
University of Waterloo
The University of Waterloo is a comprehensive public university in the city of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The school was founded in 1957 by Drs. Gerry Hagey and Ira G. Needles, and has since grown to an institution of more than 30,000 students, faculty, and staff...

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, stated: "We have had very large rains and we have had very large earthquakes in the past; The rocks have been stretched and strained. As time moves on, the rock begins to age and die and finally it collapses. The important thing is that we’re able to know the preconditioning of the slopes." Scientists are currently building a synthesis paper on the landslide and a set of recommendations regarding the next steps for the Philippines in relation to landslide hazards.
There was also a minor earthquake in the area measuring 2.6 which would have contributed to the landslide.

Mining operations

Religious leaders and civil authorities suspect that mining interests are behind the Southern Leyte tragedy.

The Supreme Court decision December last year reversing its earlier ruling concerning the legality of the Mining Act of 1995 has paved the way for U.S. and other foreign mining corporations to claim mining rights in the country, the report of the recently-concluded International Solidarity Mission (ISM) said. These corporations have particularly penetrated Samar and Leyte, islands in central Philippines which are rich in bauxite, nickel and copper.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) lists two mining companies which have an ongoing exploration in the region, particularly in Southern Leyte: The Buena Suerte Mining Corporation, which explores the areas near San Francisco, San Ricardo, Pintuyan and Liloan (6,611.59 has.) and Orophilippine Ventures, Inc., which explores Sogod, Liloan, St. Bernard and Libagon. Gold, silver, and other associated minerals can be mined in these areas.

May 2006 mudslide

Due to Typhoon Chanchu (Philippine name: Caloy), flash floods and mudslides isolated at least 11 barangay
A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines and is the native Filipino term for a village, district or ward...

s in Sogod, Southern Leyte
Sogod, Southern Leyte
The Municipality of Sogod is a 2nd class municipality in the province of Southern Leyte, Philippines. Sogod is connected in the Maharlika Highway that links Luzon to Mindanao, one of the most important highways in the Philippines...

. No casualties were reported.

External links

  • 1500 Missing in Village Mudslide - CBC
    Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
    The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as CBC and officially as CBC/Radio-Canada, is a Canadian crown corporation that serves as the national public radio and television broadcaster...

     Dean Bernardo 17 February 2006
  • Philippine rescuers find bodies - BBC News
    BBC News
    BBC News is the department of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online...

     19 February 2006
  • Philippine rescue teams find more bodies - MSNBC
    MSNBC is a cable news channel based in the United States available in the US, Germany , South Africa, the Middle East and Canada...

     19 February 2006
  • Hope fades for villagers in Philippine mudslide horror - The Observer
    The Observer
    The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

    John Aglionby, 19 February 2006
  • Mud wipes out Philippines village - BBC News 17 February 2006
  • What caused Philippines landslide? - BBC News 17 February 2006
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