Yungay is located in the Callejón de Huaylas on Río Santa at an elevation of 2,500 m. East of the small town are the mountain ridges of snow-covered Cordillera Blanca, with Huascarán, Peru’s highest mountain, no more than 15 km east of Yungay.
On May 31, 1970 a debris avalanche caused by the 1970 Ancash earthquake buried the whole town of Yungay, killing 25,000 people. The earthquake triggered an unstable mass of glacial ice about 800 meters across at the top of Nevado Huascarán to fall. More than 50 million cubic meters of debris slid approximately 15 kilometers downhill at an angle of about 14 degrees. Speeds between 200 km/h to 400 km/h were achieved. Only 92 people survived! The few adults who survived where at the cemetery and the children who survived were at a circus in the stadium just outside of the town, up on a hill.
In these photos you can see the town square where some of the original palm trees still stand – their bare topless trunks a stark reminder of what lies beneath. A crumpled bus is also visible on the surface, its gnarled features spiking cruel images in the imagination.Large boulders are scattered around, their size giving an indication of the immense force of the event. A rose garden is a tribute to the lost lives and memorials stand at the site of each home. It was an eery sensation walking above the fully buried city where you know below are thousands of people still in their homes. The Peruvian government has forbidden excavation in the area where the old town of Yungay is buried, declaring it a national cemetery. The current town was rebuilt 1500 meters north of the destroyed city.
At the entrance to the site, children wait to volunteer their services as guides. Our young guide was a walking encyclopaedia of information.
On this day, Huascaran was shrouded in clouds, but you can glimpse it in some photos and the beginning of the snow line is visible.