Natural Hazards Case Studies

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Mass Movement

Hollbeck hall 1993

  • A landslip along the upper sections of boulder clay, at the 60m cliffs in Scarborough.

  • Destroyed the 1883 Hollbeck hall.

  • Its part of the most rapidly retreating area in Britain; would have cost too much to protect it.

  • Agriculture blamed droughts for making the land unstable.

  • It rained, the clay became saturated, causing an earth flow.

  • Nothing to do with erosion.

  • Nothing could be done until the slope slid to 25 degrees.

Swiss Alps 2007

  • Avalanche

  • Caused by: Heavy snowfall 75cm, mild winter so warmer layers, trees removed to help skiers, strong winds built up-drift, skiers went off piste, slopes reshaped for hotels.

  • Impacts: 8 killed, some damage to buildings, high cost of rescue services, roads blocked.

  • Responses: short term – rescue services, helicopters. Long term – fence off avalanche prone areas, structures to slow or divert avalanches, warnings and education, setting off potential avalanches, reforestation.

Aberfan 1966

  • Flow/landslide

  • Causes – Waste coal tip at a steep angle, prolonged heavy rain, tip built on a spring so water seeped through sandstone, little vegetation to bind the waste, no management of tip, assumed any slide would be slow.

  • Impacts – 147 killed, 116 were children, 20 houses and a farm buried, huge physiological impact, loss of a generation, cost of clean up, it was slow enough to give a warning.

  • Responses – short term: emergency rescue services. Long term: £20 million in clean up, no prosecutions, over £20 million in donations, 1969 Mines and Quarry Act passed which controls the siting of tips, other tips checked and their slope angles reduced.

Venezuelan Mudslide 1999

  • High rainfall (410mm in one day)

  • Precipitation 40% higher than average.

  • Started with an avalanche of rocks/mud pour down slopes of 2000m Mt Avila, burying 300m of land.

  • The rain triggered mudslides, landslides and flash floods that killed 30-50,000 people in a strip between the mountains and the Caribbean sea.

  • 150,000 became homeless.

  • Slums were buried and swept out to sea.

  • The mud was 30ft deep.

  • Infrastructure was destroyed.

  • Airport closed

  • Ports flooded so supplies couldn’t be brought in.

  • Container ships were damaged and hazardous materials leaked.

  • Total cost $3 billion.

  • Blamed corrupt politicians for allowing shanty towns to develop around the mountain.

  • Search and rescue, few survivors found.

  • Emergency relief, accommodation, food, water and medicine.

  • Encouraged people to move away from overcrowded coast.

  • Government announced it was to expend the city and build homes in the north coastal region.

  • Reconstruction of canels and ports.

  • Vargras built quickly.

  • The town ruined was replaced with parks.


North Sea Storm Surge 1953

  • Physical causes – Storm surge: strong winds from north/east pushing water south, intense depression so sea level rose, high spring tide, north sea narrows towards south so greater wave size, heavy rain so rivers swollen.

  • Human causes – Dredging of sand offshore, neglected sea walls, global warming so sea level rise, salt marshes reclaimed, rivers embanked, rapid urbanisation of coast, encroachment onto natural flood holding areas.

  • Enviro impacts: Land lost to


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