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From soil mechanics, it tells us that unsaturated soils get its strength from three main components, namely, friction, cohesion and suction. In building a sand castle in a beach, experience tells us that when sand is too dry or too wet, the castle can hardly be built. However, when the sand is partially saturated, the suction (negative pore water pressure) holds the sand together and provides the strength the build the castle.
In Hong Kong about 80% of landslides occur owing to erosion and loss in suction. Only less than 20% of landslides occur as a result of increase of pore water pressure, leading to the decrease in shear strength.