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Rocks Falling

Aug 14th 2017


A massive mudslide in Sierra Leone has left hundreds dead including dozens of children, it has been reported. 

A hillside near the capital Freetown collapsed causing a deluge of mud to cover homes. Hundreds of people have been buried with one estimate saying at least 200 people including 60 children are dead. 

The pictures show some interesting examples and it makes you wonder how they go about removing such large masses of rock, gravity is something we learn to live with, but it sure shows us who's the boss occasionally and you have to be careful not to fall foul of it.

Rocks falling need not be part of a landslide it can be just an some isolated material falling off a cliff face but if you happen to be in its way you or your family could be seriously injured.

Most of these falls are caused by nature adjusting the landscape, this can be aggravated when extremes of cold weather freeze the moisture between the cracks and actually push the stones apart, and gravity takes over and we have a serious fall, you can have rock falls more frequently when you are in a seismic active earthquake area, even minor tremors that you wouldn’t feel can upset the formation on a cliff face.

These events can also be caused by human activity, someone working on a steep slope dislodges a small stone and the stones that get dislodged get bigger as they roll on, or it could be a climber, people do like to climb hillsides and mountains, sometimes to the detriment of those below, animals despite being very nimble can also cause this adjustment of the hillside.

Heavy rains that saturate the land can cause major problems, when the saturation forms a weak layer called a slip plane, if this happens the weight of the material above the slip plane will cause the whole mass to slide off the side of the hill, very often dislodging material below, when this happens it is called a landslide, they can be very serious and have killed many thousands of people in the past.

This mixture of water, mud, stones and debris in motion down the hillside is extremely destructive to crops, property, animals and particularly to human life, few people that get in the way of a major mudslide manage to survive, because the weather is getting more severe and torrential downpours more frequent due to global warming we can look forward to more severe landslides and a general adjustment in the profile of the land in the future.

Fortunately with modern communication systems these dangerous situations can be monitored easily and warnings issued by local government, civil defense, police, local radio and television.

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