Earthquake Facts

Peru's Earthquake of 1970

Peru Earthquake

At 3:23 pm., on May 31, 1970, an earthquake jolted the South American country of Peru. Enormous damage occurred in Peru's coastal department of Ancash. In the city of Huaraz, as many as 20,000 people died in the crumbling buildings. Chimbote and other towns in the area were also greatly damaged or destroyed. The quake's focus was 15 miles off the coast of Peru, far below the Pacific Ocean seafloor. Due to the great depth of its point of origin, the quake did not disturb the seabed, so no major tsunamis occurred. But while it produced no killers from the ocean depths, the quake triggered some deadly events from the heights of Peru.

The quake shook loose a huge mass of material from Huascaran, the 22,205-foot mountain that is Peru's highest peak, unleashing a combination avalanche-landslide. Millions of tons of snow, ice, rocks, and mud shot down the mountain's slopes at speeds sometimes exceeding 150 miles per hour. In Yungay, 20,000 people were buried alive. Elsewhere the half-mile-wide mass of debris flattened villages and farms like a giant bulldozer. When it finally ended, the Peruvian quake and accompanying landslide-avalanche had claimed nearly 80,000 lives and had destroyed the homes of nearly a million people. It was the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike North or South America.

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