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Evacuation underway after giant rockfall blocks Bureya River, Russia

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Urgent measures are underway this week after a 'large and unusual' landslide that took place last month in remote Khabarovsk region, southern Russia, blocked Bureya River. The water level is now rising above the newly formed natural dam, forcing authorities to issue evacuation orders for downstream villages. This is the largest landslide event in Russia in recent years.

Some 34 million m3 (1 200 698 668 ft3) of rocks suddenly fell into the river sometime around December 11, 2018, sparking numerous theories, including a meteor strike and an alien attack.

The event took place at 50.559, 131.472, some 75 km (46 miles) from the village of Chekunds, where river level is rising a few centimeters each day.

According to The Siberian Times, a state of emergency has been declared for Verkhnebureysky district of Khabarovsk region and the Bureysky district of Amur region due to flood threat. Officials have called in the army to help evacuate residents of remote villages.

A team of specialists, including geomorphologists, geologists, hydrologists and land-surveyors are now at the site conducting reconnaissance work.

"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," a defense ministry source said.

Professor Dave Petley, one of the world's leading authorities on landslides, analyzed satellite imagery and concluded this was a rockslope failure. "The landslide appears to be about 500 m (1 640 feet) wide and up to about 1.5 km (0.93 miles) long."

Hunters who first reached the site said they were alerted by a sudden and inexplicable change in the flow of the river. They reported 'hot rocks' on which they could warm their hands, sparking a meteor impact theory.

Russian scientists are describing the slide as large and unusual.

Featured image: Bureya River landslide scar, Russia. Credit: Anna Liesowska

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