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The rainfall-triggered landslide and flash-flood disaster in northern Venezuela, December 1999

March 30, 2001

Rainstorms in December 1999 induced thousands of landslides along the northern slopes of the Cordillera de la Costa mountain range principally in the state of Vargas, Venezuela. Rainfall accumulation of 293 millimeters during the first 2 weeks ofDecember was followed by an additional 911 millimeters of rainfall on December 14 through 16. The landslides and floods inundated coastal communities resulting in a catastrophic death toll estimated at between 15,000 and 30,000 people. Debris flow damage to houses, buildings, and infrastructure in the narrow coastal zone was severe. Flash floods on alluvial fans at the mouths of rivers draining the coastal mountain range also contributed to the general destruction. In time scales spanning decades to centuries, the alluvial fans along this Caribbean coastline are areas of high geomorphic activity. Because most of the coastal zone in Vargas consists of steep mountain fronts that rise directly from the Caribbean Sea, the alluvial fans provide the only relatively flat areas upon which to build. Rebuilding and reoccupation of these areas requires careful determination of hazard zones to avoid future loss of life and property. A limited assessment of the distribution and character of landslides is currently in progress by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Venezuelan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2001
Title The rainfall-triggered landslide and flash-flood disaster in northern Venezuela, December 1999
Authors Matthew C. Larsen, Gerald F. Wieczorek, L.S. Eaton, Heriberto Torres-Sierra
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70171328
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Caribbean Water Science Center