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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Yungai: Natural Disaster


It was almost 39 years ago at the end of the rainy season in Peru (the months of January-May) that the highland town of Yungai of the Ancash Department in Peru suffered a natural tragedy that merits a mention in this blog post. Because it is such a solemn place I did not place a cache here. No one in Yungai was expecting what happened on 31 May 1970. It happened on a Sunday afternoon while most of the people of Yungai were fixed to their television sets watching a soccer game. Meanwhile, high on snow-covered Huscaran Mountain a huge section of the mountain, both ice and earth, shock lose in a brief earthquake. This was about 30 kilometers to the west. Yungai lies at the confluence of two valleys and their associated streams. In a very short amount of time a wall of ice and mud came crushing down on the unsuspecting citizens of Yungai. Many died on this day, trapped in their homes, in a bus and smothered in the streets of Yungai. Over 50 feet of mud cover the town. There were some people in the southeastern corner of the town that were able to run to the cemetery hill that over looks the town. They were the few who were saved from the disaster. Today the site of this disaster is considered Campo Santo (Holy Ground) due to the many loved ones lost almost 40 years ago. This was not the first time that the mountain had given way. On 10 January 1962 approximately 3,500 people were killed nearby when a similar disaster took the nearby town of Ranrahirca. You can read about that disaster in the June issue of National Geographic. For more information on the Yungai disaster visit: http://www.moon.com/destinations/south-america/peru/huaraz-and-cordillera-blanca/callejon-de-huaylas/yungay

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