Saturday, May 31, 2008

In Memory

Today is the 38th anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies to befall the people of Ancash. On May 31st, 1970 a 7.9 to 8.0 earthquake hit Ancash. Just last August I experienced a 7.9 earthquake that originated in the department of Ica, south of Lima, and it was a little scary. The problem with this earthquake in Ancash was that in the 1970’s the infrastructure of Ancash wasn’t prepared for the damage this would cause. It devastated Huaraz wiping out nearly 80-90% of the city. Many people died. But the tragedy also managed to annihilate an entire pueblo. 17,000 people were killed when a chunk of ice broke off of Huascaran and caused an avalanche and landslide that wiped out Yunguy killing the entire population except for 400. A small group of youth that were off performing a play or watching a circus (depending on the source) in another town, and were spared, but their families weren’t. Yunguy is only 45 minutes away from Jangas. In total 47,000 people died in the department of Ancash with estimates upwards to 66,000. Picture of the wrecking from

My host father, Julio, remembers the earthquake well. He was seven years old. He told me that he was sweeping the floor of his house, while his older brother was cleaning dishes, and his younger two-year old brother was playing nearby. Julio said it started as loud sound, and then the earth started to rock, then shake, and finally the ground would open up and then close again. He and his three brothers ran outside to an area where there weren’t any trees or walls that would fall on them, and they watched the walls of the mud houses around them tumble a little bit. But thankfully because the strong structure of the adobe houses, there wasn’t much devastation in Jangas. Julio told me that very few died here. Huaraz on the other hand looked like a wrecking ball had gotten loose. I recently saw an amateur video taken of the carnage; there were walls, windows, and dead bodies everywhere. Yunguy was nothing but a mud slab.

This picture is from You can kind of see where Yunguy formerly resided.

The new National Park of Old Yunguy. (There is a new town of Yunguy).

I recently visited Old Yunguy which is now a National Park. It is a flower garden with a few memories of what was left after the earthquake finished. The only thing that survived intact was a white statue of Jesus that was located in the Plaza de Armas. That statue currently resides over the cemetery looking out over the expanse that was the former Yunguy.
I can’t describe how sad I felt walking through Old Yunguy knowing that thousands of people were buried beneath my feet, families, young children, communities, and entire city all gone in a few moments. The death-toll amounts to 16 Sept 11ths or the entire city of Wilson, North Carolina being wiped off the face of the planet. Coincidentally, almost 10 years to the day Mount Saint Helen’s erupted on May 18th, 1980 killing 57 people and a number of animals. Recently, some volunteers were told that there is a prediction that another big one is going to hit Ancash this year. Here’s hoping this prediction proves to be false.
Here I am in the National Park in Former Yunguy.


Mardy said...
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Mardy said...

Wow Ari. That's quite a piece of history that most of us would have never known. Thanks for sharing. It is amazing how much destruction an earthquake can cause.

I hope you are well and I sent you a package this week. Let me know when it comes.