In the heart of the Cordillera Blanca (White Range) and the Cordillera Negra (Black Range) in the Andes is the quaint little town of Yungay (yoongaai), peaceful and quietly sat at around 2500 m above sea level, in Ancash province. It never used to be so quiet, till 3:23 pm on Sunday, 31 May 1970.
That was the day an undersea earthquake with it’s epicenter in the Pacific Ocean triggered a landslide in Yungay. Now the Peruvians take their Sundays very seriously. The whole town is out, singing, dancing, drinking chicha (corn toddy), playing in the parks, barbecuing their meats to share with everybody. But on this certain Sunday, Mother Nature decided to play partypooper. Or maybe she just wanted to have her own big blast.
The landslide from the towering Huascaran mountain (6800 m), hit them at speeds ranging from 300 km/h to 800 km/h. That’s as fast as a boeing jet does. There were around sixty-five to seventy thousand people in town that day. And they were subjected to 80 million cubic meters of freezing water, mud, and rocks bigger than homes, hurtling at them at speeds faster than you can blink.
Above: Many massive boulders still remain where they eventually came to rest after the devastation.
Anything in sight was demolished by the landslide. Below is an aerial view of the aftermath. That glacier is about four thousand feet wide at the widest, and this pic is still when it was only halfway through it’s ride.
The only survivors that day were a bunch of kids who’d gone to a fair the same Sunday, and another bunch of kids who were at the stadium, which happened to be at an elevation this landslide could not touch. Of course, when they got back home, some of them died of shock and heartache, or the resulting starvation killed them.
Here are some of the images of the five storey cemetery that now holds the remains of the 70000 that perished.
^pic courtesy Parchis
Above: This lucky baby beat the earthquake by almost two months.
Below: One of the survivors, 45 years later.
Below: This used to be a bus, and two cars, until boulders coming in as fast as comets changed them.
Mount Huascaran, where the landslide originated, despite being 15 km east of Yungay, managed to wipe out the whole town in 45 seconds.
You know what i did after? I went to the next town and had four ice creams – wine, beer, passionfruit and lemon flavours.
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