Alpine village swept away in fatal landslide 20 years ago

Log pod Mangartom, 17 November - Log pod Mangartom, an alpine community in the north-west of the country, was hit by a devastating landslide that claimed seven lives twenty years ago, to the day. The village has been rebuilt but the locals say it will never be the same again.

Log pod Mangartom
The aftermath of a devastating landslide that hit Log pod Mangartom 20 years ago.
Photo: Matija Zorn, Anton Melik Geography Institute of the Science and Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

It was during the night between 16 and 17 November 2000, following a prolonged spell of heavy rain, that a huge landslide and a debris flow swept away the upper part of the village in a matter of moments.

The entire upper section of the village had to be rebuilt; twelve new houses have been built anew but on safer locations with the help of the funding provided by the state.

"The state responded like never before. The locals are happy with what they got and how the village was rebuilt," Igor Černuta, the head of the 133-strong local community, has told the STA.

The villagers do not feel threatened by potential new landslides but they are aware of the risk. "The question is whether such an event could ever be repeated at all," Černuta says.

"In all those 20 years since the landslide, the alarm system hasn't gone on a single time. There was an unfortunate sequence of events at the time; the prolonged rains and the wet terrain unleashed a flow of debris and caused a tragedy," Černuta remembers.

Log pod Mangartom, a village in the Bovec municipality, not far from the Italian border, does not look the same today as it did before the landslide. Bovec Mayor Valter Mlekuž says much has changed for the better, hopefully in a way such a tragedy can never happen again.

Data from the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning show EUR 26.4 million in state budget funds has been spent on repairing the damage after the landslide with EUR 5 million more needed to complete the work set out by the zoning plan.

The amount of rainfall in the area in October and November 2000 had not been seen in a century. Two days ahead of the disaster, a smaller landslide destroyed more than 100 metres of the road leading to the Predel mountain pass.

Based on the telling signs, the civil rescue headquarters in Bovec recommended the population at risk to leave their homes, but some of them refused to do so.

Just after midnight on that fateful night, the mass of mud and debris above the village was such that it came thundering down the bed of the Predelca stream with a devastating flow of debris.

The locals remember the disaster every year with mass, but this year the service has been postponed because of the Covid-19 situation.

© STA, 2020