You’re out on the balcony, soaking up the stunning view of the valley’s hills. All of a sudden, a violent storm starts to form. You notice the trees along the mountain swaying and falling in the wind.
The collapsing forest quickly turns into an enormous wave of trees, dirt, and debris. Don’t stand your ground. A landslide is destroying everything in sight. And this one’s heading straight for you.
Here’s how to survive a landslide.
A landslide is the movement of soil, rocks, or other types of debris down a slope. Landslides may not look as massive as earthquakes or tsunamis, but they can be just as devastating. About 4.8 million people were affected by landslides from 1998 to 2017.
But, not all landslides are the same. Rockfalls are barrages of loose rock that tumble down steep slopes. They can be caused by earthquakes and mining. Their size can range from teeny tiny pebbles… to huge, hulking boulders.
Mudslides happen when dirt and debris becomes saturated with water. Mudslides are often caused by heavy rain or volcanic activity. They can be a slow, creeping sludge, or a fast, all-consuming wave. Where should you go if you can’t outrun a landslide? And what’s your last resort if you do get swallowed up by one?
Step 1: Prepare
Like in most natural disasters, you’ll have the best chance of surviving if you prepare in advance. Have an emergency kit ready with food, water, flashlights, first aid supplies, and emergency blankets.
You’ll also want to create and practice an evacuation plan. Identify all the escape routes from your home and workplace. Choose a meeting spot in case you get separated from family and friends. And keep your emergency kit somewhere that’s easy to remember and access. You may only have minutes to get out of your home.
Step 2: Pay Attention
If you live by a mountain or hilly terrain, you could be at risk of a landslide, so listen up. Look for tilted trees, new holes, or bare spots along the hillside. Listen for sounds like rumbling or trees cracking. And pay attention to a landslide, especially if the authorities are telling you to evacuate.
If you think there’s a risk of a landslide, don’t even think about getting some shut-eye. Be on the alert and stay awake. Most landslide deaths occur when people are sleeping. But it’s too late to run. The landslide is right outside your doorstep.
Step 3: Get to Higher Ground
If you can see a landslide moving towards you, chances are you probably can’t outrun it. Stay inside, and move upstairs or onto higher ground. Then, hunker down underneath some sturdy furniture and wait it out.
Getting to a higher spot can help you stay out of the path of the landslide. But what can you do if you’re caught outside during a landslide?
Don’t hide behind a tree or anything unstable. Landslides can be strong enough to push them onto you. Find any possible structures you can hide in to protect you from the debris.
Step 4: The Last Resort
With no shelter close by and nothing to climb on, your last resort is to brace yourself. If you have an emergency blanket, cover yourself with it to protect your body. Then, curl up in a ball, protect your head from debris, and avoid inhaling water.
Luckily, if you are caught in a landslide, there’s a chance you won’t be buried completely. Once the flow stops, the dirt might be loose enough that you can dig yourself out. The dust has settled, and the landslide has come to a halt. Congratulations, you survived a catastrophic landslide.
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- “‘Washed away within minutes’: Uganda’s landslide survivors tell their stories”. 2018. The New Humanitarian.
- “Landslide Survivor: ‘I Could Hear The Mud Roar'”. 2020. chinadaily.com.cn.
- “Landslides And Mudslides|CDC”. 2020. cdc.gov.