The worst landslides in history were recorded in China in 1920. A series of major landslides occurred following an 8.5-magnitude earthquake. These landslides caused massive destruction killing over 100,000 people and destroying over 20,000 square kilometers of land. Haiyuan County alone lost more than 50% of its population in the disaster. One of the landslides buried an entire village in Xiji County as well.
These Landslides are happening worldwide causing masses of rock, earth and debris to come crashing down a slope. If you live in mountainous areas, these are a real threat in which you must be prepared.
How are Landslides Caused?
Most landslides are caused by multiple factors that act together to destabilize the slope. Excessive water is one of the most common triggers for landslides and the most destructive ones happen suddenly after a triggering event such as heavy rainfall or an earthquake.
Other factors that weaken slope materials also contribute to the occurrence of landslides. These factors include both natural events such as geological weathering and erosion and human-related activities such as deforestation and changes made to the flow of groundwater. Destruction of vegetation by droughts, fires, and logging has been associated with increased risk for landslides.
One particularly destructive type of landslide is known as a lahar. Lahars are volcanic mud flows or debris flows that are capable of traveling at very fast speeds down the slope of a volcano.
Tips For Surviving a Landslide
The first step to protecting yourself is to find out how likely it is that a Landslide could occur where you live. The local planning department should be able to give you any information that you need.
You must create an emergency evacuation plan in place for you and your family as well as an emergency kit that can help you and your family survive for a minimum of 72 hours.
Your evacuation plan should include any information that clearly shows how you and your family can safely evacuate an area. All members of the family should fully understand all escape routes and where everybody is to meet up.
During times of heavy rainfall, or following a natural disaster, it is advised that you stay tuned into the local public alerts on your radio, TV, or even on social media. If you are at risk of being in the line of a possible landslide, it will get put out to the public.
Watch for Warning Signs
You must pay attention to any warning signs of an approaching landslide, such as flowing mud or a rapid increase or decrease in the water level on a stream or creek.
Pay particular attention to tilted trees, telephone poles, fences and walls as well as new patches of bare earth on hillsides. Tilted trees or trees that have a steep curve have corrected themselves due to sliding. This can be a warning sign, too.
If it has been advised that you evacuate the area, do so immediately. These will be broadcast for your own safety. If it has been given that evacuation at this point is voluntary, understand that this can quickly turn to mandatory so be prepared.
Avoid flooded areas when evacuating and head in the opposite direction to the mudslide. If on foot or the mudslide is already coming down do not attempt to outrun it. Instead head at a right angle and get out of there as fast as possible.
Don’t head back to your property until the authorities have said that it is safe to do so. Stay tuned in to your emergency radio to keep up-to-date with the situation and any changing conditions.
If you don’t have any time to evacuate your property you need to prepare to hunker down. The upstairs of your property is your safest floor to be on as this will put you out of the main flow of the mudslide should it destroy your home. Curl up on the floor, under a table and cover your head to protect it from any debris.
If you get trapped by the mud, as soon as it stops moving, try to get your head free or create an air pocket around yourself so that you can breathe. This needs to be done quickly but calmly as once the mud starts to dry, it will start to solidify.
Shout for Help
As soon as you hear rescuers, let them know where you are by yelling as loud as you can. If possible, wave your arms around to get noticed and don’t stop yelling until they have spotted you.
Let us know in the comments below if you can add any more tips to this guide, we’d love to hear your ideas.