Landslides in Cyprus

Cyprus is well-known for its interesting and often complex geology, particularly in the south-west part of the island. Here, the remains of former sea-floor deposits and massive submarine slides, (referred to as ‘olistostromes’ and including massive breccias called mélange) are exposed in the Paphos District situated between the Troodos Mountains and the sea. These deposits tend to be heavily deformed and are rich in the types of clay minerals that are prone to landsliding. This tendency is exacerbated by the steep terrain and the long history of powerful earthquakes in the region.

Figure 1 Deep-seated rotational landslides in Kannaviou Clay and Melange at Krittou Marottoi, eastern Paphos District

Paphos District landslides

In some parts of the Paphos District landslides cover as much as 70 per cent of the landscape. These cause persistent disruption to villages and infrastructure including roads and water supply. Many types of landslide can be seen in a relatively small area, from deep-seated rotational landslides (Figure 1), through translational block movements and topples, to shallow mudflows. These landslides have been mapped by the Geological Survey Department of Cyprus in collaboration with BGS (Northmore et al., 1987a, b; Northmore et al., 1988) and more recently as part of Scott Wilson’s mapping programme. The terrain is characterised by steep-sided plateaux made up of ‘Melange’ and ‘Kannaviou Clay’ capped by thick chalk sequences. These chalks act as reservoirs releasing water into the clay and sandstone slopes below (Figures 2 and 3).

Figure 2 Translational rock slide in chalk, central Paphos District

Figure 3 Mudflows in mélange beneath chalk at Nisi, western Paphos District

Limestone 'olistoliths' Paphos District

Olistoliths’ within the mélange are huge isolated blocks of rock, usually limestone, which were detached by the submarine olistostromes and now dot the skyline (Figure 4). These can be the size of a large office block and some have been quarried almost completely away. In some cases, they are unstable and subject to rock falls. The heavily sheared fabric of the extremely plastic Kannaviou Clay, that is key to many landslides in the area, is shown in Figure 5. Unusual rock fall/slide features can also be found, as that shown in Figure 6.

Figure 4 Olistolith blocks, north-west Paphos District.

Figure 5 Characteristic ‘scaley’ fabric of the heavily sheared Kannaviou Clay involved in landsliding at Krittou Marottoi, eastern Paphos District.

Figure 6  A huge rock slide in siltstones (Ayios Photios Group) through which the road passes, Episkopi Pafou, central Paphos District.

References

Northmore, K J, Charalambous, M, Hobbs, P R N, and Kyriakos, E. 1987a. Engineering Geological Map of the Phiti Area, SW Cyprus. Colour printed, 1:10 000 scale. Shows landslide distribution/ classification, hydrological and erosional details on geological/topographical base for 40 km2 area in geologically complex and landslide-prone terrain. Geological Survey Dept. of Cyprus, Nicosia, 1987.

Northmore, K J, Charalambous, M, Hobbs, P R N, and Kyriakos, E. 1987b. Engineering Geological Map of the Statos Area, SW Cyprus. Colour printed, 1:10 000 scale. Shows: landslide distribution/classification, hydrological and erosional details on geological/topographical base for 63 km2 area in geologically complex and landslide-prone terrain. Geological Survey Dept. of Cyprus, Nicosia, 1987.

Northmore, K J, Charalambous, M, Hobbs, P R N, and Petrides, G. 1988. Complex landslides in the Kannaviou, Melange, and Mamonia formations of south-west Cyprus. Proceedings of the Vth International Symposium on Landslides, Lausanne, Switzerland, July 10–15, 1988. Bonnard C (editor). pp 263–268.

Contact the Landslide Response Team

British Geological Survey
Keyworth
Nottingham
NG12 5GG
E-mail: Landslides team
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