· · ·

Extreme rainfall triggers deadly highway collapse in Guangdong, China, killing 48

Meizhou-Dabu Expressway collapse after landslide on may 1 2024 aerial image

A large landslide destroyed a significant portion of the Meizhou-Dabu Expressway in Meizhou City, Guangdong Province, China, at around 02:10 local time on May 1, 2024. The collapse caused 23 vehicles to plummet down a steep slope, igniting some in flames and resulting in 48 fatalities and 30 injuries as of May 2, 2024.

In the early morning (LT) of May 1, 2024, a large landslide triggered by extensive rainfall hit the Chaoyang section of the Meizhou-Dabu Expressway in Meizhou City, resulting in severe destruction and loss of life.

The landslide triggered the collapse of an approximately 18 m (59 feet) section of the highway down a steep slope, covering an area of roughly 185 m2 (221 square yards).

The collapse, which coincided with the start of the five-day May Day holiday — a peak travel period, impacted one side of the four-lane highway, resulting in 23 vehicles plummeting down the steep slope, with several igniting into flames upon impact.

At 15:30 LT on May 2, local officials reported that 48 people had been confirmed dead, with another 30 suffering from non-life-threatening injuries.

YouTube video

The affected area has experienced more than 560 mm (22 inches) of rainfall over the past four weeks — nearly 4 times its average April rainfall of 148.3 mm (5.83 inches).

Dr. Dave Petley, a geologist from The Landslide Blog, provided an analysis of the site based on historical Google Earth imagery.

He suggested that the landslide occurred on a fill slope that was likely weakened by the excessive rainfall, leading to high pore water pressure and potential drainage issues.

Google Earth image of the site taken in February 2013, when the road was under construction, shows the slopes on the upslope side were being cut, and fill was being emplaced in the gullies to create the road bench.

satellite image taken in february 2013 - guangdong, meizhou-dabu expressway - ref may 1 2024 highway collapse event
Image credit: Google Earth. Acquired on February 1, 2013

“It appears that it is one of these fill slopes that failed so catastrophically,” Petley said.

“A key question will now be the stability of the many other fill slopes along this section of road.

“Urgent checks will be needed to see if this was a design and/or maintenance issue that might be replicated elsewhere along the road,” Petley remarked, adding that there are possible signs of a much smaller failure on the adjacent slope.

YouTube video

Rescue operations have been challenging due to ongoing rain and unstable conditions at the landslide site, authorities said.

The Communist Party secretary for the Meizhou Emergency Management Bureau, Wen Yongdeng, noted the added difficulty due to some vehicles catching fire. “The rescue operation has been severely hampered by the conditions, and many vehicles were buried under a large volume of soil,” Yongdeng said.

This event is one in a series of extreme weather incidents that have struck Guangdong Province recently, which include unprecedented rainfall and flooding in the last two weeks, as well as a fatal tornado in Guangzhou the previous weekend.

For more information on these related events, read further:


1 Death toll jumps to at least 48 as a search continues in southern China highway collapse – AP – May 2, 2024

2 Death toll rises to 36 after road collapse in south China’s Guangdong – Xinhua – May 2, 2024

3 The 1 May 2024 Meilong Expressway landslide in China – The Landslide Blog – May 2, 2024


Commenting rules and guidelines

We value the thoughts and opinions of our readers and welcome healthy discussions on our website. In order to maintain a respectful and positive community, we ask that all commenters follow these rules.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *