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Huge Landslide Destroys Ski Resort

On July 30, 1997 a huge landslide rolled over the Thredbo Ski village in Australia causing massive damage and virtually burying the resort; cars, buildings, people and all! The loose earth, rock, and foliage swept down the slope and crashed into the Bimbadeen Lodge, a multi-level building, used to house guests. Eighteen people died as a direct result of the landslide, most were buried alive. The landslide brought one thousand tones of earth, rock, trees and debris down the slope of the mountain cutting a four hundred meter wide swath. Rescue efforts where made even more difficult due to the occurrence of secondary minor landslides, and unstable soft earth. The damage to the resort was devastating. Sheared water, gas, and oil lines had to be capped before rescue operations could even begin.

It took 55 hours before any survivors could even be located. Many vehicles where destroyed by the flowing earth. The Carinya lodge was swept right off its foundations and hurled into the Bimbadeen Lodge. Both multi-floor buildings where completely crushed as a result of the landslide. The social impact on the resort was substantial.

Tourism to the resort dropped as a result of the landslide. Most people where afraid to return to the area. Many people suffered trauma from the event and still experience nightmares, and other such medical or psychological conditions. The economic impact to the area was of course very significant.

Business to the resort obviously came to a full stop. Millions of dollars had to be spent to repair and rebuild the facility and it took quite a long time to complete the repairs and reopen for business. Lost revenues from the closure and from the reduced level of tourism were enormous. Landslides are not often considered to be significant issues in so far as natural disasters are concerned. They usually occur in more isolated areas and their effects are only felt by relatively small local populations.

One must realize, however, that in the last one hundred and sixty five years over one hundred and fifty landslides have caused an estimated two hundred million dollars in damages. They have damaged hundreds of buildings, both homes and businesses, and destroyed roads, pipelines, crops, and disrupted local utilities. These same landslides have killed at least 73 people and injured many more. Obviously, such a landslide can cause economic loss and hardship for an operating business. Proper planning is essential to reduce the risks associated with any type of natural disaster.

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