Walkers beware: deluge makes 2012 the worst year for landslides


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The Independent Online

Another unwelcome record was entered for Britain’s year of climate misery today - it is the worst for landslides.

The wettest ever year in England has resulted in five times the normal number of landslides in December alone the British Geological Survey said.

More than 30 have already added to this month's weather-related mayhem by destroying gardens, blocking roads, delaying trains and endangering walkers.

The West Country has been particularly badly hit this month. A landslide warning is currently in place for the area after numerous land slips damaged roads, railways and coastal paths.

Wales, Scotland, and the north of England are also at particular risk, however.

In Torquay residents in a block of flats overlooking the harbour woke today to find rubble and rock in their back gardens after an 80 foot land slip following a day of torrential rain.

Walkers have already been warned to be careful on coastal paths in the south west of England. In Scotland today Transport for Scotland warned drivers on the A83 at Rest and Be Thankful in Argyll to beware of landslides. Twenty tonnes of rock which fell onto the A890 Stromeferry bypass on Christmas Day has only just been cleared The road, the main route between Inverness and Skye, has been plagued by landslides and drivers could face 150m diversion for the next five years as a permanent solution is found.

The BGS has a Yellow Warning in place for landslides over the New Year – meaning ‘be aware’ - down from the Amber Warning over Christmas.

But it added in a daily report to the Natural Hazard Partnership today: “Further rain falling on saturated ground with heavy showers forecast for Western Scotland, South-West England, Wales and Northern England, will result in an increased potential for landslides in natural and artificial slopes.”

The NHP is a body made up of the Met Office, the BSG, the Environment Agency and other bodies.

Dr Helen Reeves of the BGS said this months’ landslide total follows a similar amount during Britain’s wet summer and the rainfall then is partly to blame for the current danger.

“The BGS has been monitoring landslides for 30 years, and recording data since 2004,” she said. “The ground is still saturated from the wet summer and because of the very wet winter we are now seeing an increase of events.

“In July there were five times as many landslides as normal, and that’s the same this month. That’s the most landslides we’ve had in recent years. It’s an unprecedented year.”

She added that landslides can happen inland as well as by the coast.

Railway embankments and cuttings are particularly vulnerable.

The Met Office said today that while the worst of the rain is over, rain will continue over the New Year, with high winds in Scotland and the west. A spokesman added that the whole of next month is likely to be soggy.

 “It won’t be as torrential all over the UK as it has been,” a spokesman said. “There will be the occasional clear sky. But we are unlikely to see a settled dry spell in the next three weeks.”

Seventy six flood warnings - meaning flooding is likely - were still in place today, mainly for the Midlands and South West, on the rivers Trent, Avon, Thames and Bourne. The Environment Agency also had 179 flood alerts - meaning flooding is possible - in place for the south, Midlands, East Anglia and Wales.