An integrated approach to the study of catastrophic debris-flows: geological hazard and human influence
On 1 October 2009, a prolonged and intense rainstorm triggered hundreds of landslides (predominantly debris flows) in an area of about 50 km2 in the north-eastern sector of Sicily (Italy). Debris flows swept the highest parts of many villages and passed over the SS114 state highway and the Messina-Catania railway, causing more than 30 fatalities. This region has a high relief, due to recent uplift. The peculiar geological and geomorphological framework represents one of the most common predisposing causes of rainstorm-triggered debris flows. This paper deals with the geological and hydro-geomorphological studies performed as a part of the post-disaster activities operated in collaboration with Civil Protection Authority, with the aim at examining landslides effects and mechanisms. The data were elaborated into a GIS platform, to evaluate the influence of urbanisation on the drainage pattern, and were correlated with the lithological and structural framework of the area. Our study points at the evaluation of the volume involved, the detection of triggering mechanisms and the precise reconstruction of the influence of urbanisation as fundamental tools for understanding the dynamics of catastrophic landslides. This kind of analysis, including all the desirable approaches for the correct management of debris flow should be the starting point for robust urban planning.