Mud--the wet, soft, sticky earth almost always connotes something negative. It can slow or halt vehicles, soil objects, cloud waters, contribute to the outcome of military battles, or most notably, alter the quality performances of a sporting event. It can also injure and kill people, damage property, close roads, and bring untold sudden misery to communities the world over. The forces of weather, such as torrential rains, flash flooding, melting snow and ice, aided by hilly or mountainous terrain, can combine to cause vicious mudslides of disastrous proportions.
At Choco, a remote town 400 miles southeast of Lima, Peru, a landslide caused by heavy rains obliterated everything in sight, killing dozens of people. About sixty people from the town were out of danger when the avalanche hit because they were attending Mass in a church on a nearby hill.
Hillside towns in Bolivia, Colombia, and Brazil have also experienced mudslides in which death counts have caused great grief and anguish. In addition, many thousands of poor farmers became homeless. In 1992 more than 200 miners were killed when part of a mountainside slid over a mine sixty miles north of LaPaz. Six years later a gold mine in the same general area was buried by tons of muck, mud, and rocks causing the deaths of 140 miners and seriously injuring many more as they slept in their huts.
On May 16, 1998, towns at the base of Mt. Sarno east of Naples, Italy, inundated by rivers of mud and torrential rains, took the lives of 400 residents. More than 1,500 people lost their homes. Experts blamed the disaster on forest fires in the area that destroyed vegetation that would have kept the sodden earth from slipping. Also at fault was the construction of illegally built homes that did not meet required building codes.