The 1786 Dadu River Landslide Dam, Sichuan, China

  • C. F. LeeEmail author
  • F.C. Dai
Part of the Lecture Notes in Earth Sciences book series (LNEARTH, volume 133)


Chinese historic records indicated that on June 1, 1786, a strong M = 7.75 earthquake occurred in the Kangding-Luding area of Sichuan, southwestern China, resulting in a large landslide dam that blocked the Dadu River. Ten days later, the sudden breaching of the dam resulted in catastrophic downstream flooding, and reportedly up to 100,000 deaths. Thus, this may well be the most disastrous event ever caused by landslide dam failures in the world. Although a considerable amount of seismological studies has been carried out to determine the location, magnitude and intensity of the 1,786 earthquake, relatively little is known about the landslide dam. In this paper, the dam was reconstructed using historic documents and geomorphic evidence. It was found that the landslide dam was about 70 m high and it created a lake with a water volume of about 50 × 106 m3 and an area of about 1.7 km2. The landslide dam breached suddenly due to a major aftershock on June 10, 1786. The peak discharge at the dam breach was estimated using regression equations and a predictive model.


Strong Earthquake Peak Discharge Landslide Area Longmenshan Fault Modify Mercalli Intensity 
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This study was supported financially by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil EngineeringThe University of Hong KongHong KongChina
  2. 2.Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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