The Worst Mudslides in History

Mudslides differ from landslides as they are characterized by heavy rain and the movement of debris.
Mudslides differ from landslides as they are characterized by heavy rain and the movement of debris.

Mudslides are naturally occurring disasters with the power to bring about the loss of life, the destruction of property and widespread chaos. Mudslides are often caused by natural phenomenons like earthquakes, volcanic eruption, flood, landslides, hurricanes, etc. Here is an overview of the worst mudslides that have ever been recorded. 

The World Mudslides of All Time

1999 Vargas Tragedy

In December 1999, in the highlands of Venezuela, excessive rainfall resulted in deadly mudslides that ravaged the country. The mudslides caused mass destruction, as thousands of people were living within its path, many of them in informal housing situations. Up to 30,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives, which was 10% of the state's population.

1985 Armero Tragedy

This mudslide was brought on by the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz stratovolcano in Tolima, Colombia. 20,000 of the town of Armero's 29,000 inhabitants are estimated to have been killed in the slide. In addition to its tragedy, the event was controversial as many believe the government could have done more to protect citizens from harm.

2013 India Monsoons

In 2013, terrible floods in the northern India state of Uttarakhand caused mudslides and the deaths of 6,000 people. The extremity of the event was particularly blamed on human-made factors, including the construction of tourism-related infrastructure in an area where the soil is not fit for development.

What is the Difference Between a Landslide and a Mudslide?

Although the terms "landslide" and "mudslide" are often used interchangeably, they are not actually the same thing. The main difference between landslides and mudslides is that a mudslide is associated with the loose falling of debris. Landslides occur when large rocks fall down on an incline. In addition, landslides occur when the landscape is disturbed, most often by events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or very extreme droughts. Mudslides are generally brought on by flooding, as they are charactized by water carrying debris through a defined area. In short,  landslides tend to be drier, and mostly composed of rocks. Mudslides, on the other side, have a high amount of water and can flow for some distance. 

Famous Mudslides By Fatalities

RankMudslide NameLocationEstimated Fatalities
11999 Vargas TragedyVargas, Venezuela30,000
21985 Armero TragedyTolima, Colombia20,000
32013 India MonsoonsUttarakhand, India6,000
42010 Gansu MudslideZhouqu County, China1,471
52017 Sierra Leone MudslideFreetown, Sierra Leone1,000
62011 Morro do Dede MudslideNova Friburgo, Brazil555
71967 Caraguatatuba MudslideSao Paulo, Brazil437
82014 Afghanistan MudslideAab Bareek, Afghanistan350
92010 Uganda MudslideMount Elgon, Uganda350
101985 Mameyes Mudflow DisasterTibes, Puerto Rico300
112015 Guatemala MudslideSanta Catarina Pinula, Guatemala280
122017 Colombia MudslidePutumayo, Colombia250
132010 Rio de Janeiro Floods and MudslidesRio de Janeiro, Brazil249
142010 India MudslidesLeh, India200
152017 Philippines MudslidesMindanao, Philippines200

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