Experts investigate cause of Cuevas del Almanzora landslide

LANDSLIDE: Part of the 20-metre embankment collapsed on to the cave house.

EXPERTS are inspecting El Realengo area of Cuevas del Almanzora and expect that by the end of this week to discover the cause of the landslide in which three people in a cave used as a house were killed.

They died when a 20-metre embankment located above their home in the Realengo district collapsed, covering the cave house in tonnes of rocks and earth in the early hours of last Friday.

The victims’ bodies were found late Friday night and in the early hours of Saturday. Firemen who took part in the rescue say that they most probably died instantly and without suffering.

The victims were Jose Manuel Asensio, aged 50, and his sons Jose Manuel and Alonso, in their early 20. Another two of Jose Manuel’s children were unhurt, while his wife was taken to Huercal Overa Hospital in a serious but stable condition.

She was rescued by firemen, police and locals as she was trapped to the waist amongst the rubble.

More than 1,000 people, including authorities from throughout the Levante Almeriense area, attended the funeral which was held at the Iglesia de la Encarnacion.

The town hall called for three days of mourning. Another man who lived nearby sustained a slight injury and had to undergo surgery.

Inspections of the area are now being carried out to see if it is safe for other inhabitants of the caves to return to their homes, and what measures have to be taken to prevent further landslides.

People were allowed to enter their homes with firemen to collect some of their belongings before the area was closed off. Guardia Civil and Local Police remain in the area, although it is considered to be safe.

Five other houses were affected by the landslide, two of them in caves, and at the time of going to print three families were still at a local hotel. Cuevas Mayor Jesus Caicedo returned to the area earlier this week to talk to local residents and ask them to remain calm.

He thanked everyone who had helped in the rescue operation and said that he hoped that support from the administrations would continue because the town hall couldn’t deal with the problem alone.

He has also asked for help from private companies. “We will get money from wherever we have to” the mayor said, “but the area will be repaired”. Technicians from the Junta de Andalucia Delegation of Public Works and from the government sub-delegation in Almeria, as well as an expert from a private company, were accompanied by the local councillor for urban planning, Juan Jose Perez Celdran during an inspection of the area.

The landslide could have been caused by a variety of factors, from the type of rocks and the amount of rain, to seismic activity and the direction of cracks in the terrain, or due to human activity such as deforestation or building with heavy materials on weak terrain.

With the terrain in the area of the caves being sandy it is not unusual for landslides to occur.

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