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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-419
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-419
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  16 Mar 2020

16 Mar 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal NHESS and is expected to appear here in due course.

Hidden Hazards: the conditions that potentially enabled the mudflow disaster at Villa Santa Lucía in Chilean Patagonia

Marcelo A. Somos-Valenzuela1,2, Joaquín E. Oyarzún-Ulloa3, Ivo J. Fustos-Toribio3, Natalia Garrido-Urzua4, and Chen Ningsheng5,6 Marcelo A. Somos-Valenzuela et al.
  • 1Department of Forest Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Forest Sciences, Universidad de La Frontera, Av. Francisco Salazar 01145, Temuco, Chile, 4780000
  • 2Butamallin Research Center for Global Change, Universidad de La Frontera, Av. Francisco Salazar 01145, Temuco, Chile, 4780000
  • 3Department of Civil Engineering, Universidad de La Frontera, Av. Francisco Salazar 01145, Temuco, Chile, 4780000
  • 4Servicio Nacional de Geologia y Mineria, Av. La Paz 406, Puerto Varas, Región de los Lagos, Chile, 5550000
  • 5Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
  • 6University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

Abstract. The evaluation of potential mass wasting in mountain areas is a very complex process because there is not enough information to quantify the probability and magnitude of these events. Identifying the whole chain of events is not a straightforward task, and the impacts of mass wasting processes depend on the conditions downstream of the origin. Additionally, climate change is playing an essential role in the occurrence and distribution. Mean temperatures are continuously rising to produce long term instabilities, particularly on steep slopes. Extreme precipitations events are more recurrent as well as heat waves that can melt snow and glaciers, increasing the water available to unstabilized slopes.

In this paper, we present an example that portraits the complexities in the evaluation of the chain of events. On the 16 of December of 2017, a rockslide occurred in the Yelcho mountain range. In that event, 7 million m3 of rocks and soil fell on the Yelcho glacier depositing 2 million m3 on the glacier terminal, and the rest continued downstream, triggering a mudflow that hit Villa Santa Lucia in the Chilean Patagonia, killing 22 people. The rockslide event or similar was anticipated in the region by the National Geological and Mining Survey (Sernageomin in Spanish). However, the effects of the terrain characteristics along the runout area were more significant than what was anticipated. In this work, we evaluate the conditions that enable the mudflow that hits Villa Santa Lucia. We used the information generated by Sernageomin's professional after the mudflow. We carried out geotechnical tests to characterize the soil. We simulated the mudflow using two hydrodynamics software (r-avaflow and Flo-2D) that can handle the rheology of the water–soil mixture.

Our results indicate that the soil is classified as volcanic pumices. This type of soil can be susceptible to the collapse of the structure when subjected to shearing (molding), flowing like a viscous liquid. From the numerical modeling, we concluded that r-avaflow performs better than Flo2D. We can reproduce the mudflow satisfactorily using water content in the mixture ranging from 30 to 40 %. Finally, in order to achieve the water content, we need a source of water smaller than 3 million m3 approximately. From the simulations and soil tests, we determined that in the area scoured by the mudflow, there were around 2 789 500 m3 of water within the soil. Therefore, the conditions of the valley were crucial to enhance the impacts of the landslide. This result is relevant because it highlights the importance of evaluating the complete chain of events to map hazards. We suggest that in future hazard mapping, geotechnical studies in combination with hydrodynamic simulation should be included, in particular, when human lives are at risk.

Marcelo A. Somos-Valenzuela et al.

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Marcelo A. Somos-Valenzuela et al.

Marcelo A. Somos-Valenzuela et al.

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Short summary
This work presents a study of the biggest mudflow event during the last 20 years in the Patagonian Andes. We integrate in-situ geotechnical tests and numerical modeling to model the Villa Santa Lucia mudflow event. The simulations were constrained using geotechnical soil data. Our results suggest that the initial soil water content has a significant impact in comparison to the initial water content in the generation zone for volcanic soils.
This work presents a study of the biggest mudflow event during the last 20 years in the...
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