Thursday, May 13, 2010

Earth swallows up house in Canada, drowning family in mud [PICTURES]

Major slides happen every two years or so on slopes in this region, but most occur in places that are not inhabited.

“When not disturbed, these clays behave very well,” he said, “but when they are [disturbed], they behave like fluid.”

SHOOT: The dog survived this. I think they were just helluva unfortunate that their TV lounge was in the basement, because as one can see from the aerial photos, the top floor remained visible. But if mud and clay broke through the sides and the ceiling then there would not have been any escape.

In the third period of the hockey game, with their beloved Habs on the way to victory, the Préfontaine family was nestled around the big TV in their basement living room when the land gave way with a ferocious roar.

The first hint for some of the neighbours in Saint-Jude, a village about 50 kilometres northeast of Montreal, came when power was cut to their own television sets. Others heard the noise when thousands of tons of clay that had been still for 10,000 years went rolling down the river bank. They thought an earthquake had struck, so they set out along Salvail Road to see what had happened.

At the bottom of a new gully, Richard Préfontaine and Lyne Charbonneau, along with their two daughters, 12-year-old Amélie and nine-year-old Anaïs, were trapped. With their house up to the eaves in mud, officials confirmed all four dead Tuesday evening, nearly 24 hours after the slide.

An aerial view of the slide.
A Google Streeview photograph of the Préfontaine home, on Rang Salvail Nord near Saint-Jude, Que., before the slide.
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