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Trapped in Frightening Darkness

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Aizawl, the most populous hill city in India, is stunningly beautiful--but it's dangerous for reasons you might not expect. I'd like you to meet a young geologist, Christopher Lalthazuala, who is working to make the city safer. Here's how.

Every year during monsoon season, at least a dozen landslides tear through Aizawl neighborhoods, and sometimes people are killed in these disasters. A big earthquake could set off hundreds of landslides all at once.

Aizawl, India is built on several steep ridges. Photo: Gina Marie Belair

Three years ago, while visiting at the hospital, Christopher met a boy who had just been rescued from a big landslide. This child was the last person to hear his sister and cousin alive, all of them trapped in frightening darkness.

Christopher decided then that he had to do something.

This 2013 landslide in Aizawl killed 17 people. Photo: Lalrinpuii Tlau

He knew it was possible to reduce landslide risk, but few people in Aizawl had the skills to make this happen.

That’s where we come in.

What sets GeoHazards International apart is that we strengthen local experts--engineers, scientists, planners, professors, builders. They are the ones who can advance safety in their city for the long term.

Investigating landslide hazards in our field course. Photo: Lalrinpuii Tlau

Last year we trained 88 geologists and engineers in Aizawl to a new level of expertise.

"They learned how to spot potential landslides, protect people nearby, and integrate safety in everything that's built," explained Lalrinpuii Tlau, our mitigation specialist based in Aizawl.

Christopher is on track to join them. He took our hands-on field courses, working side-by-side with experts from his city, other parts of India, and the U.S. They devised solutions for problems that were too daunting before.

Christopher Lalthazuala, graduate student in geology, Mizoram University. Photo: Anne Sanquini

He realized that yes, he can make a difference. That’s why he’s studying to be a professional geologist, and encouraging younger students to do the same. In fact, recognizing the value of such experts, the government is bringing its own geologists on staff.

Your support makes this possible. Every investment in GeoHazards International builds local expertise. Not the quick fix, this goes deeper. And lasts.

P.S. Many thanks for generous support of the field courses from Munich Re, a global reinsurer, as well as National Science Foundation, and the Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India.


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