LIMA, Peru — The new report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, outlining the impact and risks of a warming planet, reminded me of one of the great tragedies to hit my own country, Peru.
On May 31, 1970, a huge magnitude-8 earthquake struck off the coast of Ancash about 100 kilometers north of Lima. In a matter of seconds, shockwaves dispersed across a wide area to the east of the quake’s epicenter, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
Among other things, the sheer impact of the tremor destabilized the northern wall of mount Huascaran, causing an enormous piece of glacial ice and rock to carve off and hurtle towards the valley below. Measuring 100 meters wide and 1.6km long, this vast mass of debris reached speeds of 300km per hour at its peak. When it arrived at the villages of Yungay and Ranrahirca, it buried everything in sight.
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