One of the deadliest weather disasters of 2015 occurred in a suburb of Guatemala City, Guatemala on Thursday night, October 1, when a massive landslide of waterlogged earth and debris tore through the village of El Cambray II, in the municipality of Santa Catarina Pinula, destroying or damaging 125 homes. At least 86 were killed, and over 500 people were feared missing as of Sunday morning. According to Norman Avila of climaya.com
, who maintains a personal weather station a few miles from the disaster site
, the rains over the past three weeks in the region were not exceptional--6.72" during the period September 12 - October 1, and only 0.02" the day of the disaster. This is not an unusual amount of rain for a 3-week period during the May - October rainy season. In fact, conditions during this year's rainy season have been on the dry side, due to the influence of the strong El Niño event underway in the Eastern Pacific. The disaster seems to be primarily attributable to the location of the town, which is at the bottom of a canyon. According to a news report from Yahoo News
, municipal authorities had urged the community, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) east of the capital Guatemala City, to relocate several times, most recently in November of 2014. According to EM-DAT
, only three weather-related disasters have killed more than 400 people in Guatemala: floods in October 1949
that killed 40,000, Hurricane Stan of 2005
(1513 killed), and flooding from Pacific Hurricane Paul
of 1982 (620 killed.) According to Aon Benfield
, only two weather-related disasters have killed more than 200 people this year: a May heat wave in India (2,500 deaths), and a June heat wave in Pakistan (1,265 deaths.)Figure 1.
The deadly landslide of October 1, 2015, in a suburb of Guatemala City, Guatemala. Image credit: Soy 502 on Twitter.
Bob Henson will have a post by mid-afternoon on the tropics and on the extreme flood situation in South Carolina, which has experienced 1-in-1000 year rainfall amounts of over two feet of rain over the past two days.