Example of environmental geology event report for spring Y2K semester.

Title: Venezuelans Fault Leaders for Not Heeding Disaster Warnings

Location of occurrence: Mount Avila, near Caracas, Vargas state, Venezuela

Time of occurrence: December 15, 1999

Nature of geologic event: A catastrophic debris flow was triggered by torrential rainfall. The rains received during mid-December were unlike any on record. Vargas state received, in a matter of days, the same amount of rainfall that it normally receives over an entire year. The mountain soil had been weakened by the removal of vegetation through deforestation. In addition, roads, water connections and other infrastructure systems had been installed to improve living conditions for numerous shantytown villages. These shantytowns had been developing in the dry riverbeds and on steep unstable hillsides outside the larger city as part of a wide-scale population shift from farming regions to urban areas. Due to urban mismanagement the poor were forced into these precarious hillside slums which had long been known as danger zones for potential landslides.

Sadly this was a very predictable event, though the magnitude has stunned experts. Warnings were published as early as December 7 that residents of Vargas state were in imminent danger from landslides and floods. However, no effort was made to evacuate as political leaders were otherwise engaged by a political election.

Loss of life and/or injuries: Reports range from 10,000-50,000 deaths

Damage to human infrastructure: As many as 400,000 people are homeless. Damage to roads, ports, electricity, telephone lines, schools, hospitals, resorts and homes could reach $15 billion.

Mitigation (potential or realized): Some effort was given to prevent landslides in the area. Hillsides that were in danger of collapsing had been reinforced. Unfortunately funding had been canceled for the maintenance of flood gauges and hundreds of meteorological stations that would have provided more warning. There simply were too many people in need of a place to live. Initially, an effort was made to prevent people from living in this zone, however squatters became too numerous so efforts changed from removing people to allowing them to stay. Attention focused on improving living conditions. Had warnings been heeded, evacuations would have prevented loss of life and what few possessions people could have carried away. To have prevented this event they would have had to remove the population from this area. Vegetation would have to have been replanted. Diversions for water runoff needed to have been built to prevent the soil from becoming saturated. The costs of these preventions would have been meager compared to the cost of repairing the damage. However, the people would have resisted leaving the area as economical desperation had brought them there in the first place. Chances are they would return and the situation would repeat itself.

Information sources: web site: dallasnews.com/world/19169_VENEZUELA18.html


This is a nicely done effort. Another information source may have been useful.