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This chapter summarizes the processes and effects of the most notable catastrophic mass movement events in South America in the twentieth century. We present 23 case histories of individual and regional landslide events, beginning at the northeast terminus of the Andes Mountains in Venezuela, proceeding counterclockwise down the Pacific Coast to the southern Andes of Chile and Argentina, and ending with discussion of catastrophic regional mass movements in the Brazilian Highlands.

The types of landslides involved in these disasters ranged from high-velocity rockslides and rock or debris avalanches to high- to medium-velocity debris flows and mudflows. Most casualties were caused by high-velocity debris avalanches and high-to medium-velocity, highly mobile, long-runout debris flows. A common, and particularly devastating, regional occurrence consisted of earthquake-triggered slides on steep slopes covered with saturated residual soils; these slides were rapidly transformed into very fluid, high-velocity debris avalanches, which in turn changed into devastating debris flows that ran out into populated areas on valley bottoms.

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