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Fatal landslides in China from 1940 to 2020: occurrences and vulnerabilities


Landslides result in severe casualties every year in China. However, few historical fatal landslide databases are available for quantitatively assessing the temporal and spatial distribution and the impacts of landslides. Thus, this study constructed a database incorporating fatal landslides from 1940 to 2020 based on multiple data sources. A total of 1470 nonseismic-triggered landslides resulting in 14,394 fatalities in China were collected in the database. The incorporated landslides were classified into anthropogenic and natural landslides, which could also be categorized as the following types of displacements: fall, slide, flow, and other landslides. Spatial and temporal distributions demonstrated that the fatal landslides in China were mainly distributed in 13 provinces in Southwest China. Fifty-seven landslides and 1413 landslides before and after 2000 were incorporated into the database, respectively. Fatal landslides usually occurred during the Chinese rainy seasons, i.e., between April and September. Considering the impacts posed by various human activities, this study revealed for the first time the relationship between the gross domestic product growth rate/urbanization rate and anthropogenic landslides. Then, the affected populations in seven regions of China (Northwest China, North China, Northeast China, Central China, East China, South China, and Southwest China) from 2000 to 2020 were estimated using the geographical information system. The average number of fatalities caused by landslides per decade gradually decreased. Finally, the human vulnerability to landslides in China, which also showed a decreasing trend, was quantitatively assessed using the constructed database. These findings on human vulnerability are of critical importance in the elimination of landslide risks.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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This study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51988101, Grant No. 52278376), the National Key R&D Program of China (Grant No. 2019YFC1806001, Grant No.2018YFC1802301).

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Authors and Affiliations



Conceptualization: Shuai Zhang, Yunmin Chen, Yao Tang; draft preparation and editing: Shuai Zhang, Can Li, Yao Tang; data collection, analysis, and investigation: Can Li, Jingyu Peng, Yiling Zhou, Shuairong Wang.

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Correspondence to Yao Tang.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Zhang, S., Li, C., Peng, J. et al. Fatal landslides in China from 1940 to 2020: occurrences and vulnerabilities. Landslides (2023).

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  • Database
  • Fatal landslide
  • Rainfall
  • Risk
  • Vulnerability