Articles | Volume 11, issue 12
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 3383–3396, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-11-3383-2011
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 3383–3396, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-11-3383-2011

Research article 22 Dec 2011

Research article | 22 Dec 2011

Failure of infrastructure embankments induced by flooding and seepage: a neglected source of hazard

M. Polemio and P. Lollino M. Polemio and P. Lollino
  • Italian National Research Council, Research Institute for Geo-Hydrological Protection, Bari, Italy

Abstract. The risk of failure of transportation embankments due to seepage induced by temporary and occasional impoundments taking place on the upstream side as a consequence of exceptional rainfalls is frequently underestimated. These failure events result from a combination of three main factors, i.e. the flooding event, the hydraulic weakness and the geotechnical weakness of the embankment. Based on the case study of a railway embankment in Southern Italy that collapsed in 2005 due to an upstream impoundment that occurred after few hours of a very intense rainfall, the paper describes a methodological approach aimed at assessing hazard of failure of transportation embankments induced by flooding and seepage. In particular, according to hydrological, hydraulic and geotechnical studies performed to define the factors affecting the process of the embankment failure, three subsequent activities are proposed: the historical analysis of flood damages at the watershed scale; and the assessment of the upstream peak impoundment based on hydrological analysis and the embankment stability analysis, these latter to be carried out at the site specific scale. The approach here proposed is planned to be further validated and improved by means of the application to other case studies, characterised by different contexts and embankment structures.

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