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The Siberian Times

Russian military sent to assess giant rockfall blocking Bureya River

By The Siberian Times reporter
12 January 2019

Urgent measures underway to evacuate residents of remote villages after flood threat caused by rising water above new ‘dam’.

The scale is immense: some 34 million cubic metres of rock suddenly fell into the river. Picture: TV Zvezda

One month ago an epic natural event suddenly blocked the blocked the river. 

Now the army are to be tasked with ‘moving a mountain’ to allow the river to flow again, vital for supplies into the Bureyskaya hydro power  reservoir.

Initial descriptions were of a meteorite strike at the site in Khabarovsk region; later Russian and foreign scientists assessed it as a large and unusual landslide. For some the jury is still out. 

The scale is immense: some 34 million cubic metres of rock suddenly fell into the river, we can reveal. 

The bulk would fill 13,600 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Put another way, if all Americans showered at the same time, the water used would fill roughly the same space. 

Watch the Russian military inspecting the giant rockfall site

The fallen rock is a bigger heap than all the snow collected by ploughs in Moscow last winter. 

A defence ministry source said a group of specialists is en route ‘to conduct reconnaissance work’ at the site. 

'Given the significant size of the landslide, units of engineer and railway forces with special equipment, as well as army and transport aviation, will be involved in clearing the rock.’

The size of the task they face in ‘moving the mountain’ is visible from a new video at the site. 

The massive event occurred on or around 11 December. 

A number of villages are under threat from rising water levels caused by the blockage; so are roads and the Baikal-Amur Mainline.

Army sent to assess giant rockfall
The Russian army is sent to inspect the giant rockfall's site. Pictures: TV Zvezda


A state of emergency has been introduced in Verkhnebureysky district of Khabarovsk region because the a flood threat. 

The same has happened in the Bureysky district  of Amur region.

Arrangements for emergency housing of residents have been established. 

Some 400 people are deemed at risk in Chekunda, Ust-Urgal and Elga villages.

The rockfall is seen as the largest in Russia in recent years. 

Army sent to assess giant rockfall

Satellite images show the scale of the rockfall


Teams of researchers are also heading to the site, some 75 kilometres from the village of Chekunda where the level of the river is increasing a few centimetres each day because of there downstream blockage. Investigations by two groups will be undertaken in winter and spring. 

Specialists include  geomorphologists, geologists, hydrologists and land-surveyors.

Meanwhile, an international expert on landslides has insisted that the Bureya River episode was not a meteorite strike while warning there  maybe a risk of a new large fall. 

Professor Dave Petley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, is regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on landslide. His analysis is here

Citing The Siberian Times’ reporting of the event, he said: ‘We can say that this is certainly a rock slope failure, and that it is highly unlikely to be associated with a meteor impact event. 

‘The slope appears to show a pre-existing tension crack or depression that aligns with the rear of the failed mass. 

‘This is at an elevation of about 580 metres, the valley floor is at about 190 m.

‘This makes sense in light of the YouTube video from the Siberian Times article, which appears to show a conventional rock slope failure.’

The timing was ‘slightly’ surprising, he said. ’In cold areas rock slope failures mostly (but not exclusively) occur in the warmer months. 

‘An interesting aspect though is whether the depression to the west of the rear scarp is another extensional feature? If so there may be a larger failure yet to come.’

Army sent to assess giant rockfall


Army sent to assess giant rockfall


Army sent to assess giant rockfall


Army sent to assess giant rockfall

Hunters who first reached the scene reported ‘hot rocks’ on which they could warm their hands. Pictures: The Siberian Times


The fall left a new 160-metre high mound visible from space now rises from the river bed. 

Hunters who first reached the scene - alerted by a sudden and inexplicable change in the flow of the river - reported ‘hot rocks’ on which they could warm their hands.

Their initial guess was that the mayhem had been caused by a meteorite strike - even though there were no scientific reports of a Chelyabinsk-type space rock hitting the Russian Far East in December. Verkhnebureinsky district head Alexey Maslov said: ‘We are trying to find the explanation for this incident. I insist that it was a meteorite.’

This theory was in the main rejected by experts - who had not travelled to the site - preferring the explanation of a large landslide possibly triggered by an earthquake. 

See our previous reports, citing proponents of the meteorite theory

Meanwhile, a poll of locals asked for views on the cause of the Bureya event. 

Some 27% said a meteorite crashing to earth, 40% a landslide - and 33% a UFO attack.

Comments (4)

I think a Russian air strike, a bombing, would disperse the rubble enough for the water to flow over it. It could be carried out as needed target practice in terms of cost. Blast a channel through at least.

Thanks Siberian Times for keeping us up to date on whats happening in Siberia.
Part Russian American, Los Angeles
20/01/2019 04:17
2
0
It was a meteorite that hits a mountain, it can affect the mountain by causing damage to the mountain's rocky surface.
FeNi,
18/01/2019 23:33
2
0
Thank you for continuing to share this information about the investigation and continued learnings. As Ted says, Wow! I look forward to the upcoming Video of the Year! Also, I certainly hope that all goes well with managing the impact of this mass movement of land/rock. I have been around avalanche areas in the Rockies and understand the principle of trying to be proactive if there are possible slide areas. The rock face that might also come down very likely makes the average avalanche look pale in comparison.
Pamela K Tetarenko, United States
14/01/2019 06:06
3
0
With Prof. Petley identifying the possibility of a subsequent, maybe even-larger slide-hazard hanging over the site, the need to ensure the safety of workers below becomes a big complication. This will have to be confirmed by Russian authorities, but if so ... wow.

Although it is not usually especially effective to 'blow' a blocked river channel clear with explosives, it could well be reasonable to 'try' a well-placed Russian Army Artillery 'love-tap' on the threatening unstable mountain-face. If that mass is indeed just waiting to come down, it needs to come down.

With the cameras rolling, please! Even before the first month is out, we could be talking Video Of The Year for 2019 ... brought to you by The Siberian Times?
Ted Clayton, Forks, Washington USA
13/01/2019 02:51
3
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