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Is there any difference in meaning/nuance between Xが原因で and Xで? For example in

8つの州で雨が原因で約800人が亡くなりました。

can I replace 雨が原因で with just 雨で?

I'm guessing they wrote it the long way because they thought 州で雨で looked silly, or confusing maybe? I may be talking nonsense.

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Yes, you can replace 雨が原因で with 雨で, and it does not make the sentence silly or confusing at least in this case. No one will take で after 雨 as a place marker. Still, the longer version looks a little more organized, stiff or explicit to me. (English also has many similar pairs such as "to survive" vs "in order to survive".)

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