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Natural  phenomenon


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A hillside shifts sending mud, rocks and trees rumbling down its slope. Homes and property are buried or swept away. People are left homeless, injured or even killed.

Worldwide, thousands of people die every year from land and mudslides. In the United Sates alone, land and mudslides cause an estimated $1 billion in damage and kill 25 to 50 people every year. 

What Causes a Landslide?

First of all, a mudslide is one type of landslide. Steep hills and mountains are often the site of land and mudslides. Slopes on these hills and mountains become weakened by many things:

- erosion by rivers, glaciers or ocean waves

- fires leave slopes bare and vulnerable to rain

- heavy rain or snowmelt saturates the ground

- earthquakes weaken the structure of the slope - volcanic eruptions produce loose ashfall deposits and debris slopes

- traffic, blasting operations, machinery and even thunder can vibrate weak slopes

- the weight of snow, stockpiling of ore, waste piles, and even buildings can put stress on weak hillsides

Once a slope is weakened, almost anything can set it off. Rain, earthquakes, and even blasting are common causes.

If the hillside is dry, dirt and rocks can tumble down the grade. If, however, the slope is saturated with water, a mudslide occurs. This more destructive flow can pick up rocks, trees, houses and cars. As the debris moves into river and stream beds, bridges can become blocked or even collapse, making a temporary dam that can flood neighboring areas.


rumble   move slowly and making a continuous noise
slope   an elevated geological formation, a stretch of ground forming a natural or artificial incline
tumble   to fall quickly and without control, to collapse
saturated   completely wet
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What lies beneath

Angry mountains of fire

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