There are two classifications of the mechanism of levee failure caused by floods; local seepage failure and progressive failure. The fundamental causes of levee failure produced by piping and erosion were studied and the safety of river leves during floods evaluated in terms of soil machanics. The critical hydraulic gradient and the process of progressive failure were obtained from one- and two- dimensional model experiments for piping and erosion. Problems inherent in and preventive measures against levee failure are discussed. In particular, effects of the Tsukinowa method, the most representative Japanese flood fighting method, were studied experimentally and improvements proposed.