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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 August, 2004, 20:47 GMT 21:47 UK
Crews work on landslides debris
Digger clearing rbbble from the A85
A digger clears rubble from the road, which remains closed
A clear-up operation is under way after landslides trapped 57 motorists on a busy tourist route in central Scotland.

Thousands of tonnes of mud and debris were swept down the hillside and onto the A85 in Glen Ogle north of Lochearnhead on Wednesday afternoon.

The RAF, Royal Navy and emergency services spent three hours airlifting the motorists to safety.

Twenty stranded vehicles are being removed and surveyors are examining the damage caused to the road.

The A85 will remain closed for some time where the landslides occurred.

Serious flooding also closed the A84 but Central Scotland Police announced on Thursday evening that it had been reopened.

It was a very slick rescue
Michael Mulford
RAF Kinloss

An emergency response vehicle belonging to Bear Scotland, which maintains the road network, was swept 80m down a gorge.

Speaking at the site, Bear chief executive Alan Mackenzie said: "The emergency vehicle being swept away just shows the sheer force of the landslide and how dangerous the situation is."

No casualties

Most of the 57 motorists rescued from the A85 spent the night in nearby villages, as did other holidaymakers who were caught in the flood, including a party of Scouts.

In all, more than 140 people were put up in village halls and other emergency accommodation in nearby Lochearnhead and Killin.

Central Scotland Police searched the area north of Lochearnhead through the night as a precautionary measure, but there were no reports of any missing people or casualties.

Landslide in central Scotland
The landslide was caused by more than two hours of heavy rain
Superintendent Stuart Marshall said: "The road engineers are assessing the damage caused to the road and after that assessment repair works will be carried out.

"Thankfully nobody was hurt and I think it was just due to the rescue operation that was put in place very, very quickly by the emergency services.

"The local people have been very good and they helped out giving some beds for the individuals who were trapped in the area."

The drama began when one section of road was blocked, bringing about 20 vehicles to a halt.

Swept away

As they tried to go back, another torrent of mud and stones poured down the steep hillside and pinned them in.

Jim Scott, who was one of a coach load of day-trippers trapped on the road, said: "It was pouring rain, very heavily, water was streaming down the mountain."

As drivers and passengers got out of their cars, one empty vehicle was carried away by floodwater.

Deputy Firemaster Geoffrey Williams said firefighters went to the vehicle and ensured there was nobody inside.

Landslide graphic
Michael Mulford, spokesman for RAF Kinloss, said: "A landslide cut across them and one behind them.

"There was a real risk not from the two that happened but from the one that might follow.

"They were caught between two landslides. They could not get out and the rescue teams could not get in."

Mr Mulford said it had been essential to airlift the people to safety before any further landslides made the area more dangerous.

People became very cold, wet and frightened during the rescue operation, he went on.

"It was a very slick rescue. A lot of the children were quite distressed."

Flooding elsewhere

There was localised flooding in many parts of Scotland on Thursday.

Two schools in Aberdeenshire were forced to shut because of power cuts affecting the area.

Severe overnight storms left an estimated 25,000 homes in the north east without supplies.

Heavy rain caused flooding across the south of Shetland.

The main road to the south of the islands was closed for a time when a river burst its banks after almost three inches of rain fell overnight.

In the Borders, the Dryfe Water burst its banks, pouring water, mud and silt into nearby houses in the village of Sibbaldbie.

Drivers faced delays on the A90 in Tayside as heavy rain washed earth onto the carriageway.

We asked people affected by the Lochearnhead landslide to get in touch. News Online Scotland also received e-mails from people concerned about the causes of such events and with views on how to prevent them in the future.

Here is a selection of those e-mails.

I was one of the scouts from Hertfordshire in Lochearnhead and I would like to say that the emergency services were very good and kept us all very calm. The weather made an unusaul change to the evening routine.
Chris Bridger

I am going on holiday to Lochearnhead in just over a week. Hope everything is still intact when I get there, I am just thankful that I wasn't there this week. I'm sure the emergency services will do whatever is necessary to get the road open as soon as possible - well I hope so anyway!
Ann Chapman, Tyne and Wear

The points on prevention outlined by a number of your commentators are interesting and they should be acted upon not only in Lochearnhead, but at all other danger areas in the UK. By all accounts the emergency services responding to the call on the A85 yesterday provided an outstanding service to those trapped.

Bear Scotland and its staff also deserve recognition, they are often overlooked, and have proven their worth and value many times before in the north, by working night and day to clear the debris and rebuild the roads when such unfortunate events occur.
J.Hamilton, Glasgow

Some say the A85 is an inferior road to other "A" roads. People should realise the terrain this road has to travel through. Would the local population like the authorities to just blast a new road and at the same time destroy all that marvellous secenry? This is a rare occurance which can happen anywhere. It happened about 10 years ago in Glen Coe and has never happened again there. It's just nature.
Bruce, Glasgow

We are an American tour company with guests staying and traveling in Killin, Lochearn and Balquhidder. And more on their way today. All safe and having a bit of an adventure at your expense, I am afraid. Glad to hear all are safe. Thought you might like to know how far afield the tiny little glen landslide has affected.
Judi Fahnestock, Springfield PA USA

If this stretch of road is known for this sort of problem (as some of the letters seem to suggest) perhaps there is a need for the kind of protection given to alpine roads susceptible to avalanche, with a sloping cover above the road forming an open sided tunnel.
Albert, Crawley Sussex

I would just like to say a big thank you to all the folk who took care of my 72-year-old mother who was one of the motorists caught in this last night. The staff in the cafe at Lochearnhead were really great, as was the firecrew that brought her in hteir 4x4 to Callendar so that we could pick her up.
Ann Young, Edinburgh Scotland

For several years we have actively planted woodland in high risk areas throughout the lake district national park. Only forestry can prevent landslides.
Edwin Thompson Land Agents, Keswick, Cumbria

Although deforestation contributes to destabilisation of surface land in many places across the world, I think landslips such as this have always occurred. It's just that prior to the 20th century, we didn't have roads to get in the way.
LS, Edinburgh

This latest landslip happened just half a mile across Glen Ogle from where a landslip closed the Stirling - Callander rail line, trapping a train, in the early 1960's. The construction of the present A85 in this Glen predates that event. The A85 through Glen Ogle above Lochearnhead is one of the poorest stretches of road in the central Highlands. As the only viable trunk road that connects the western Highlands of Scotland with the central belt and to the Scottish motorway system that links to the rest of the UK, it is vital for the economic survival of the West Highland economy. Can one hope that this latest event will concentrate the transport ministers' minds on the need to find a 21st century engineering solution for this stretch of road?
TD, West Highlands

I don't see what the ministers can do. Perhaps excavating the whole hillside would resolve this, the type of land obviously is unstable as such. No matter what kind of road system is put in, the hillside would still be there to collapse. As usual our rescue services did tremendously well.
Andrew Cupitt, Sheffield

As a frequent user of this road, I was travelling on this section of road exactly 24 hours before Wednesday's landslide, and I was caught up in the middle of torrential downpour and thunderstorm. Although there was no sign or evidence of what was to follow on Wednesday this area has been severely hit by rain for weeks now and is a treacherous section of road at the best of times.
Scott , Stirling, Scotland

I was blessed enough to be one of the passengers rescued from the A85, very close to the first landslide in this most traumatic and potentially horrific incident. I must thank the RAF, Royal Navy and central Scotland emergency services, thanks to them we were rescued promptly and given free soup and tea to calm our nerves. Thank you.
Dr Dempsey, Loch Ness

I am at school at this present moment and there are Scouts from Stevenage in England stranded in our lunch hall.
Matt Dow, Callander

Further to the comments from Matt Dow, I would like to clarify that the Stevenage Scouts staying at the local school are in good spirits and are at the school currently as a precaution whilst the situation in Lochearnhead is assessed. We would like to thank the school, the local emergency services and community for their help and assistance. For more information, please visit www.stevenagescouting.org.uk.
Steve Hall, Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

To those who don't live in this area I should let them know that the local car drivers do nothing but whinge about the state of the roads so just ignore them. I have just returned from a cycle down Glen Ogle and back - at least it is still possible to get around by bike which is the really important thing!
Fergie Meek, Killin, Scotland

I live in Callander which is quite close to where the landslides happened. We do get occasional floods and small landslides due to the extreme weather this area experiences. However, I have never seen anything like what happened last night. There were rivers of waters running through Callander from the Crags at the back of the town down the river - it was awful. Given the emergency happening further along the road, the police dealt with it very well. There aren't many police covering our area and the fire service is part-time volunteers mainly, however, the response was swift and immediate. It could have been so much worse.
JM, Callander

My parents stay in Lochearnhead. Father is retired, but mother works as a teacher in Crianlarich, 15 miles north-west of Lochearnhead. My mother couldn't get home due to the landslides, therefore she and other teachers had to stay overnight in the Crianlarich Hotel - which charged them the standard rate of £40 each! When they then asked if they could have breakfast a little earlier than the stated 8:30am, so as to get to the local primary school in time to teach, the staff could not have been more unhelpful. Eventually they agreed to 8:15!
Steven Fallon, Edinburgh

Re. the email from Mr Fallon. The inflexible behaviour of staff at the Crianlarich Hotel is, I'm afraid, yet another example of the British attitude as regards the hospitality industry. When will we ever learn that customers are doing hotel and restaurant proprietors a favour by choosing their establishments and not the other way round? Sadly, these local people have experienced what many bewildered tourists have to put up with as a matter of course. As we have seen in the past few days, we certainly cannot guarantee good weather, so why can't we be accommodating and pleasant to our guests?
R Mallinson, Edinburgh

We have been very lucky recently, as most of Scotland and the rest of the UK were being washed out we have had the luxury of a pretty decent summer so far, but at 4am this morning we has the most spectacular display of thunder, lightning and torrential downpour. You would have thought it was Florida in July. I have seen nothing like it before in our country. For the first time in my life I am starting to think about the world we are passing onto our children, we now know global warming exists, even a sceptic like me. Where do we even start to put the mess we have made of our planet correct? Where will we be in 20 years because that¿s all it has taken to get here?
Bill Gray, Rosehearty, near Fraserburgh

In response to Bill Gray, the landslides in Glen Ogle are not a product of the the last 20 years of alleged global warming; after all it's nearly 40 years since the railway line on the opposite side of the glen was prematurely closed following devastating landslides. The storm was not an abnormal event, they happen periodically, it's just that Glen Ogle is particularly susceptible due to instability of the slopes above the road and the former railline.
Graham Owens, Milnathort, Perth & Kinross

In response to Graham Owens, obviously some areas are more vulnerable to heavy rain. However if you've been around even the last 15 years the affects of global warming are blindingly obvious. Ten to 15 years ago I would go skiing in the Cairngorms every year. I was only 10 at the time but I remember we'd have to drive through a wall of snow at least 6ft either side of us, I've never seen that since and even my old neighbour tells me he used to work clearing snow 40 years ago in Glasgow in the winter. The warming has meant we have more rain not snow. Hence this clammy rainy weather.
LJ, Glasgow

Why is it that with this severe of weather we are getting "hammered" with, why don't people realise that global warming and the accelerated greenhouse effect is to blame. This is the price we pay for industrial advances without which we would be left in the Stone Age - Catch 22.
David Jones, Warrington, England

With reference to Mr Gray and Mr Jones, I have been studing global warming for my degree and since and I have still seen no conclusive evidence that the minor fluctuations in the earth's temperature are anything other than the normal fluctuations that occur between every Ice Age. In reference to the weather, I can remember storms just as bad and I am only 26! And as another author has already pointed out this land slip was only half a mile away from one that occured in 1960. Why must every spot of bad weather suddenly bring the rumour mongers and people panickers out of the woodwork?
Aaron, Maidstone, Kent

If global warming is to blame how come last summer was sunny, dry and glorious?
Paul Bonatti, Glasgow, Scotland

I have to agree with Paul Bonatti, if global warming is to blame for this stormy weather I must ask if we can also have it in the winter too because only back in January of this year did the temperature scale in central Edinburgh hit -9C! Where was the global warming when we needed it?
Zoe GLOC, Edinburgh

Mr Bonatti, and preceding commentators succinctly identify the essence of human induced climate change - uncertainty in our weather. It is not possible yet to identify the proportionate influence of climate change on individual disasters, but what we have and do observe as a product of climate change is an increase in weather extremes - hot summers and intense rainfall are equal expressions of climate change. But climate change or weather extremes do not on their own make a disaster, for this natural hazards need to coincide with vulnerable human assets. Perhaps what we have begun to experience in the UK over the last few days is the high vulnerability of our urban infrastructure(London storm drains), rural planning (Cornish flood) and transport infrastructure (Lochearnhead) which has not been designed to cope with the extremes of weather that we are likely to see much more of in the future.
Dr Mark Pelling, London

Good luck to all the communities around Loch Earn. My first trip to Scotland was as an 11-year-old newly invested scout. Lochearnhead Scout station is at one end of the loch, an old railway station on the abandoned line converted into accomodation and facilities. I gained great respect for nature whilst staying here, sailing my first dinghy and climbing my first mountain, as well as hiking round the loch over two days. I hope this wonderful facility will continue to provide valuable experiences for the scouts and that the rest of the UK support places like Lochearnhead and Boscastle that make these isles so beautiful, unique and attractive to the rest or the world.
S Douglass, Northolt

Would these landslides have occurred if the hillsides were forested as they were prior to the 20th century?
Joanna Duthie, Oxford

It is important to state that landslides are a natural process in the UK, as they are in almost any environment with slopes. In the natural world landslides exist for a number of reasons, but essentially they are an efficient way to allow eroded materials to move off the slope and into the rivers to be taken out to sea. Evidence from the climatic record is that landslides have occurred more or less continuously since the last ice age, but there are periods in which there appears to be increased landslide activity, usually because the climate has become a little wetter.

This current spate of landslide events do not indicate clear evidence of climate change. Indeed, there is little doubt that previous summer storms have had similar impacts. Last year, for example, heavy late summer rain triggered extensive landslides in both Shetland and Western Ireland. You cannot therefore blame global warming for the events of the last week.

However, the current global climate change models do suggest that rainfall in the UK will become more intense as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Thus, if climate change does occur, we would expect to see a period when more of these events happen. We will find out over the next few years.

Land use is a factor - forested slopes are less likely to be involved in slides. However, deforestation across most of the UK occurred centuries or even millennia ago, so there was probably a period of increased landslide activity in the aftermath of this, but it has probably settled down again for most of the UK.

Here at Durham we maintain a global database of landslide fatalities worldwide. Last year we recorded 2490 deaths in 262 large landslide events. The vast majority of these occurred in South Asia and Southeast Asia as a result of the monsoon and of tropical cyclones. So far this year we have recorded 2355 deaths already, with a large proportion of these being the result of the terrible landslides in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in May.
Dr David Petley, International Landslide Centre, Department of Geography, University of Durham

The levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere have increased way beyond the levels experienced in the last 1000 years as a result of natural long-term fluctuations. Global temperatures have also risen beyond the range of previous fluctuations in the same period. The two are almost certainly linked, but given that detailed information on global climate has only recently been gathered, we don't know enough to state with certainty the relationship. Re: ice ages; the next ice age is overdue, so temperatures should in theory be falling not rising. As to short term (annual) fluctuations, global climate change is expected to lead to greater extremes. So it wont necessarily just be wetter all the time, or hotter all the time, but storms are likely to be more intense and more frequent, summers are likely to be hotter. See www.eea.eu.int if you want the evidence/predictions
Alistair, London, UK

In response to Alistair from London. The situation he refers to where an Ice Age is overdue depends on a specific interpretation of ice core and other past climatic data. The overdue Ice age theory assumes that the current climate is acting in a similar manner as aprox 100,000 years ago. Many researchers are currently leaning away from this assumption.

Instead, it is thought the most likely candidate as a past analogue to the current climate is around 400,000 years ago when the planet experienced a 40-50,000 year warm period. In that case we still have some 20-30,000 years of high temperatures, without even considering the effects of human activity.

It is important to note that the science of predicting the future of the earth's climate is extremely complex and uncertain. Current data and theories are a long way from the simplistic "Global Warming" that is often tacked onto every story concerning the weather.
Martin, Cardiff

People don't seem to understand that torrential rainfall is a direct result of global warming because of the increased evaporation rate.
HB, London, UK

Firstly I'd like to say how relieved I am that no-one has been hurt and congratulate the efficiency of emergency services.

This debate about climate change and weather is very interesting. As a professional working in environment and climate change, I would like to support the view that these patterns of extreme weather - be it wet or hot and dry - are related to climate change. Evidence points to increasingly unstable weather to come and the likelihood of frequent extreme events.

Land slips such as in Glen Ogle occur when the strength of the land surface gives way due to the effect of rain. This is made worse where land management has stripped the soil of trees and other cover, so the soil and rocks are no longer bound by roots. This can be further weakened by engineering cutting into the hillside for roads and railway lines. Intensive grazing by livestock can also damage soil stability.

We in Scotland need to take a more proactive and protective view of our environment.Take responsibility and do your bit!
Anna Douglas, Perth

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"The A85 will not reopen until the sodden hills no longer pose a danger"

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12 Aug 04  |  Scotland
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11 Aug 04  |  Scotland

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