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A Guide to the End of the World pt 2Of all geological hazards landslides are perhaps the most underestimated probably because they are often triggered by some other hazard such as an earthquake or deluge and the resulting damage and loss of life is therefore subsumed within the tally of the primary event Nevertheless landslides can be highly destructive both in isolation and in numbers In 1556 a huge earthquake struck the Chinese province of Shensi shaking the ground so vigorously that the roofs of countless cave dwellings collapsed incarcerating according to Imperial records over 800000 people In 1970 another quake caused the entire peak of the Nevados Huascaran mountain in the Peruvian Andes to fall on the towns below wiping out 18000 people in just four minutes and erasing all signs of their existence from the face of the Earth Heavy rainfall too can be particularly effective at triggering landslides and when in 1998 Hurricane Mitch dumped over 30 centimetres of rain on Central America it mobilized over a million landslides in Honduras alone blocking roads burying farmland and destroying communities The final - and perhaps greatest - threat to life and limb comes not from within the Earth but from without Although the near constant bombardment of our planet by large chunks of space debris ended billennia ago the threat from asteroids and comets remains real and is treated increasinglyseriously Even as I write the UK government has announced funding for a new research centre dedicated to the study of the impact threat and its consequences Recent estimates suggest that around a thousand asteroids with diameters of 1 kilometre or more have orbits around the Sun that cross the Earths making collision possible at some point in the future 1 kilometre is the impactor diameter threshold for initiating a cosmic winter due to dust lifted into the stratosphere blocking out solar radiation for wiping out a quarter or so of the
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