Imagine this. You’re relaxing on a balcony admiring the mountains. Suddenly, a violent storm starts to develop. You take note of the trees along the mountain swaying and bending in the wind.

It doesn’t take long for the collapsing forest to become a massive wave of trees, mud, and debris. This is where you start to run! Everything in the area is being destroyed by a landslide and it’s heading your way.

It can happen anywhere — hill or mountain — and at any time. Especially if it’s been raining a lot. While we can’t anticipate when or if it’ll happen, or what the outcome will be, there are steps you can take to try your best to stay safe when the unimaginable occurs.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and loved ones of the recent landslide that occurred in Batang Kali on 16 December 2022. As landslides do occur frequently we felt it prudent to share these tips.

Here are some tips for escaping a landslide:

Here are some tips for escaping a landslide:
Image by Timo Volz.

A landslide is the downward movement of loose soil, rocks, or other materials. Even though they don’t appear to be as large as earthquakes or tsunamis, landslides can still be extremely destructive.

Step 1: Get ready

The best way to ensure your survival during a natural disaster, like with any other such as a flood, is to be well-prepared. Put together a go-bag with a supply of food, water, lighting, bandages, and other necessities in case of an emergency.

Plan and practise an evacuation when at a new location. Locate all exits from your building. In the event that you become separated from family and friends, choose a meeting place. Also, make sure your emergency supplies are stored in an accessible and easy-to-remember location. You might just have a few minutes to leave your home or hotel.

Step 2: Observe your surroundings

The chance of landslides is higher if you live near a mountain or other hilly area, so pay attention. Look for tilted trees, fresh holes, or bare places on the hillside. You should be on the lookout for cracking trees and rumbling sounds too.

Likewise, pay attention to landslides, especially if officials are advising you to evacuate. Avoid trying to get any sleep if you believe there is a chance of a landslide. Be vigilant and awake. Most landslide victims die while asleep. 

Step 3: Get to higher ground

It’s likely that you can’t escape a landslide if you can see it coming your way. You wouldn’t be able to outrun one. Stay indoors and head upstairs if the building is deemed safe or to a higher location. Then, hide under heavy furniture and wait.

However, what should you do if you find yourself outside during a landslide? Avoid hiding behind a tree or any other unstable structure. The force of a landslide may easily push them right upon you. Look out for any buildings that might provide shelter from the falling rubble.

Step 4: Final option

Without something to go to or climb, your only option is to hunker down and wait it out. A blanket can serve as a lifesaving shield, so use it if you have one. Curl up, cover your head, and avoid water. Fortunately, there is a possibility that you won’t be fully buried if you are trapped in a landslide. After the flow ceases, the dirt may be loose enough for you to dig your way out.

What to do after a landslide

  • Avoid going near any places where landslides have recently occurred or if the general area is prone to them. There is potential for other incidents in those areas.
  • Monitor media reports about emergencies.
  • Keep in mind that after landslides, floods are more likely to occur.
  • Alert professional rescuers right away if you find any injured or trapped people in these places.