Tuesday 2 September 2014

The Goldau Landslide

On this day in 1806, a natural disaster struck the village of Goldau in Switzerland that resulted in hundreds of fatalities. I learnt of this event only recently whilst doing a little reading around the famed Great Fire of London; the tale kept nudging at me as the weeks passed by, so I present it to you today.

On the day of the disaster, the area had endured a heavy rainfall. The sheer amount of rain that fell on the Rossberg, a mountain near the village, exacerbated existing faults in the landscape and just before five o'clock in the afternoon, the landslide began. Beneath the mountain the villagers looked on in surprised wonder, little suspecting the imminent danger that the Rossberg posed to their lives. 

Goldau today
Goldau today

In fact, 120 million tonnes of debris slid straight down into the village and buried Goldau beneath its weight. The landslide caused enormous damage to surrounding villages and even triggered a massive wave in Lake Lauerz, which only added to the devastation; 457 people were killed and Goldau disappeared beneath debris that was more than fifty feet high.

Rather than declare the disaster a sign from God, geologists began to look for a natural explanation for the landslide and as the local people tried to make sense of the tragedy that had struck them, scientists came to Switzerland. Here they made studies of the landscape and began to piece together the events that had caused such devastation and slowly, surely, Goldau tried to recover.


DL NELSON said...

Thank you...I'm Swiss and I didn't know this.

Catherine Curzon said...

My pleasure!

Mona Lee said...

This is very interesting I enjoyed it immensely

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you, Mona!

Seidenweberin said...

It's always impressive when travelling through the area. Though it's still not a quite mountainside, the last slide was in 2005. Admittedly not as extensive, but still a reminder that mountains are untamed, despite the streets and railways lines built through them.
For people reading German:

Carol Hedges said...

We tend to be very insular here...good to hear of other countries...er..not so good to read of their disasters!

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you; I didn't know there had been a landslide so recently!

Catherine Curzon said...

One day I'll have a nice story with a happy ending, I promise!