Larsen, M.C., Wieczorek, G. F., Eaton, L.S., and Torres-Sierra, H., 2001, Natural hazards on alluvial fans: the debris flow and flash flood disaster of December 1999, Vargas state, Venezuela: in W.F. Sylva (ed.), Proceedings of the Sixth Caribbean Islands Water Resources Congress, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, February 22 and 23, 2001, unpaginated CD
Large populations live on or near alluvial fans in locations such as Los Angeles,
California, Salt Lake City, Utah, Denver, Colorado, and lesser known areas such as Sarno, Italy, and
Vargas, Venezuela. Debris flows and flash floods occur episodically in these alluvial fan environments,
and place many communities at high risk during intense and prolonged rainfall. In December 1999,
rainstorms induced thousands of landslides along the Cordillera de la Costa, Vargas, Venezuela. Rainfall
accumulation of 293 mm during the first 2 weeks of December was followed by an additional 911 mm
of rainfall on December 14 through 16. Debris flows and floods inundated coastal communities resulting
in a catastrophic death toll of as many as 30,000 people. Flash floods and debris flows caused severe
property destruction on alluvial fans at the mouths of the coastal mountain drainage network.
In time scales spanning thousands of years, the alluvial fans along this Caribbean coastline are
dynamic zones of high geomorphic activity. Because most of the coastal zone in Vargas consists of
steep mountain fronts that rise abruptly from the Caribbean Sea, the alluvial fans provide practically the
only flat areas upon which to build. Rebuilding and reoccupation of these areas requires careful
determination of hazard zones to avoid future loss of life and property.