Massive landslide prompts long-term closure of State Highway 4, New Zealand
A landslide has been developing for some time on State Highway 4, between Whanganui and Raetihi in the district of Ruapehu in New Zealand. Reports on October 9, 2019, said the recurring landslide has destroyed roads, resulting in considerable local disruption.
The event prompted a long-term closure of the road, officials said. The effects of the huge landslide were captured in a series of images via drone by photographer, Mark Brimblecombe.
"These images suggest that there is a significant volume of material still to be released in this landslide. Reconstructing the road is going to be a very substantial challenge given the magnitude of the landslide, and the volume of partially failure material," landslides expert Dr. Dave Petley said.
According to Judith MacDonald from the Regional Health Network, State Highway 4 was an ambulance route between Raetihi and Whanganui Hospital, making doctors worry some patients in Ruapehu won't reach the hospital on time.
"That's a two and half hour one way trip now through to State Highway 1, so we anticipate the helicopters will be used for acute emergencies and the ambulance will take road traffic as they can."
She said the Whanganui District Health Board have talked with local health practitioners to conduct an action plan. "We're looking at some innovative local responses like having Zoom as an option for virtual consults, particularly for follow-ups to avoid people having to travel five hours round circuit to access a follow-up specialist assessment in Whanganui."
Logging truck company McCarthy Transport also expressed dismay over the event, saying the landslide aftermath added an extra 130 km (81 miles) to 200 km (124 miles) to their trip.
The company's Chief Executive Steve McDougall said, "It's a huge financial disruption and an operational disruption. We've got two logging crews. That wood is now having to come back down to Whanganui and go west to New Plymouth, or come down to Whanganui and then go east via Marton up State Highway 1."
Mayor Don Cameron aired his sentiments in a meeting, saying, "It means for the southern districts like Whanganui, Rangitikei and place like that, their price of having goods delivered is going to move up quite markably, and that will happen almost immediately. It's not just Ruapehu that's suffering it. It's also obviously further down in the south region as well."
"Our towns have gone through the Ruapehu blowing up with businesses shutting down and tourism sites shutting down. We've gone through that, so we'll get through this, but it needs everyone to work together and that's happening at the moment," he added.
The transport agency said geotechnical engineers are examining the site to identify the extremity of the slip and determine options for reinstating the road.
Featured image credit: Mark Brimblecombe Photography/Facebook
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