Natural Hazards and Human-Induced Disasters Triggered by Intense and Episodic Tropical Rains in the Venezuelan Mountains

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In Venezuela, more than 50% of the population lives in the coastal-mountain region because most of the country's economic activities are concentrated in these areas. Presently, hundreds of thousands of people live in very vulnerable sites, and it seems impossible to avoid potential catastrophe, especially in the poorest neighborhoods, which are located in intermountain areas of the main valleys and in the foothills of the northern Caribbean Mountains. In these areas, urban expansion since 1950 can be traced very clearly, as the result of population growth close to the center of the main economic activities. This chapter analyzes some of the most remarkable disasters that have recently affected Venezuela. The impacts of disorganized urban growth on alluvial fans and the catastrophic flood on the north face of the Caribbean Mountains of Venezuela are presented here in historical perspective. Because of the magnitude of the event, details are offered on the disaster in 1999 at Vargas, which killed more than 15,000 people as a result of debris flows on the coastal alluvial fans. The torrential avalanche of the Limon River in the south side of the north central Caribbean Mountains and other recent human and natural disasters caused by catastrophic floods in the Venezuelan Andes are discussed. On the basis of all the disasters we have reviewed, we can conclude that the catastrophes were induced mainly by human mistakes produced by poverty and by the lack of governmental policies on territorial planning of new urban zoning. Urban expansion was undertaken without taking into account the natural dynamics of the geomorphic systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-129
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopments in Earth Surface Processes
Issue numberC
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009


  • Caribbean Range
  • Vargas
  • debris flows
  • disaster
  • floods

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