Natural Disasters Facts: EArthquake/Avalanche/Mudslide

From the rumbling of an earthquake to the slippery slope of a mudslide, natural disasters have the power to take a great deal of lives and damage property. In this article, you will encounter facts for the results of scary events regarding earthquakes, mudslides, and avalanches.


An earthquake is an event that involves the shaking of the ground. Large sections of the earth’s rocky outermost crust can break suddenly and move out of place. Faults or fractures in the land are at the root of an earthquake. The majority of earthquakes in the world take place along fault lines when plates slide past one another or collide into each other. When the earth shifts, shock waves are sent out. They are so powerful that the surface of the earth is altered, great damage occurs (such as the collapse of buildings). An earthquake can also cause gas lines to blow, landslides, snow avalanches, and giant sea waves called a tsunami.

The most powerful earthquake recorded is called the Valdivia earthquake or Great Chilean Earthquake on May 22, 1960. It reached a magnitude of 9.5, which is similar to a Richter scale, but actually measures the energy that is released when an earthquake takes place. An estimated 2,231 to 5,700 people were killed, and 2 million left homeless.


Avalanches are comprised of a large mass of snow that slides down a mountain slope. Weather conditions play an important role in the development of an avalanche. High winds, earth tremors, and explosions can cause the snow to violently slide down the hill , taking down whatever is in its path. Trees, skiers and mountain climbers have fallen at the mercy of an avalanche. The most deadly type of avalanche is the kind that involves dry snow.

The worst avalanche in terms of the number of people trapped as a result took the lives of at least 265 people in what was known as the Winter of Terror. On January 20, 1951, more than 45,000 people were trapped by what was described as nearly 650 avalanches. A mixture of hurricane-like high winds and wet snow affected the Swiss, Austrian, and Italian Alps.


A mudslide (sometimes called a landslide) is a large flow of mud, earth, and debris that travels down a mountain or hillside. A mudslide has the potential to cause a lot of damage to property and the environment, but they rarely kill a great number of people. Mudslides can take place on a daily basis, but most don’t reach the levels that are considered dangerous.

The highest death toll associated with a mudslide is estimated at between 10,000 and 30,000 for a natural disaster that took place in Venezuela. Lasting a couple of days, a torrential storm brought 35 inches of rain in December 1999. The mudslides that followed caused a great deal of lsot lives and infrastructure damage.