Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Two children killed by landslide in the French Maratime Alps.

Two children aged 7 and 11 were killed when a rock measuring approximately 5 m by 10 m fell rom an overhanging cliff onto a holiday challet where they were staying during a landslide at Isola in the Maratime Alps at about 5.00 am local time (4.00 am GMT) on Sunday 23 February 2014. Five adults from two families who were also staying at the chalet escaped with minor injuries, and were treated in hospital in Nice, 70 km to the south. The names of the affected families have not yet been released, but it is understood that the chalet was part of a British-built resort largely used by families from the UK.

 Rescue workers at the remains of the Isola Chalet on Sunday 23 February 2013. The Independent.

The incident happened after after a period of extended rain, combined with a sudden thaw in the area, which is primarily a ski resort at this time of year. Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall. When this is combined with a sudden thaw this can result in additional problems. As well as contributing additional water to any flooding, the thawing often affects ice in cracks in rock faces, which may have been weakened by the epansion of the water as it initially froze (ice occupies more space than an equivalent mass of water, due to its crystaline structre), but which have remained in place due to the adhesive properties of the ice, often resulting in quite large rockfalls.

Isola suffered a large rockfall in 2009, which trapped a large number of people, including many British tourists, when it burried a road connecting the chalet resort to the rest of the village. In January 2014, 2 people were killed when a rockfall struck a train in the Maratime Alps.

See also Over 100 people forced from homes by landslide in Dundee, Scotland, Magnitude 5.4 Earthquake off the coast of El Hierro, At least six dead as Atlantic Storm hits Britain and France, Supermarket destroyed by Italian landslide and Five dead and one missing as western Europe is hit by worst Atlantic Storm in a decade.

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