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A rare, high-magnitude storm in northern Venezuela in December 1999 triggered debris flows and flash floods, and caused one of the worst natural disasters in the recorded history of the Americas. Some 15,000 people were killed. The debris flows and floods inundated coastal communities on alluvial fans at the mouths of a coastal mountain drainage network and destroyed property estimated at more than $2 billion. Landslides were abundant and widespread on steep slopes within areas underlain by schist and gneiss from near the coast to slightly over the crest of the mountain range. Some hillsides were entirely denuded by single or coalescing failures, which formed massive debris flows in river channels flowing out onto densely populated alluvial fans at the coast. The massive amount of sediment derived from 24 watersheds along 50 km of the coast during the storm and deposited on alluvial fans and beaches has been estimated at 15 to 20 million m3. Sediment yield for the 1999 storm from the approximately 200 km2 drainage area of watersheds upstream of the alluvial fans was as much as 100,000 m3/km2. Rapid economic development in this dynamic geomorphic environment close to the capital city of Caracas, in combination with a severe rain storm, resulted in the death of approximately 5% of the population (300,000 total prior to the storm) in the northern Venezuelan state of Vargas. ?? 2006 Gebru??der Borntraeger.
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Geomorphic effects of large debris flows and flash floods, northern Venezuela, 1999