1970 Ancash earthquake

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
1970 Peru earthquake
Peru zemlyatrus.jpg
1970 Ancash earthquake is located in Peru
1970 Ancash earthquake
Date May 31, 1970 (1970-05-31)
Origin time 15:23:29 local [1]
Duration ~ 45 seconds [2][3]
Magnitude 7.9 Mw [1][4]
Depth 45 km (28 mi) [1]
Epicenter 9°24′S 78°54′W / 9.4°S 78.9°W / -9.4; -78.9Coordinates: 9°24′S 78°54′W / 9.4°S 78.9°W / -9.4; -78.9 [4]
Areas affected Peru
Max. intensity VIII (Severe) [2]
Peak acceleration .1g at Lima [3]
Tsunami .38 m (1 ft 3 in) [5]
Casualties 66,794–70,000 dead [5]
50,000 injured [5]

The 1970 Ancash earthquake (also known as the Great Peruvian earthquake) occurred on May 31 off the coast of Peru in the Pacific Ocean at 15:23:29 local time. Combined with a resultant landslide, it was the worst catastrophic natural disaster ever recorded in the history of Peru. Due to the large amounts of snow and ice included in the landslide and its estimated 66,794 to 70,000 casualties, it is also considered to be the world's deadliest avalanche.


The undersea earthquake struck on a Sunday afternoon and lasted about 45 seconds. The shock affected the Peruvian regions of Ancash and La Libertad. The epicenter was located 35 km (22 mi) off the coast of Casma and Chimbote on the Pacific Ocean, where the Nazca Plate is being subducted by the South American Plate. It had a moment magnitude of 7.9 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII (Severe).


The northern wall of Mount Huascarán was destabilized, causing a rock, ice and snow avalanche and burying the towns of Yungay and Ranrahirca. The avalanche started as a sliding mass of glacial ice and rock about 3,000 feet (910 m) wide and one mile (1.6 km) long. It advanced about 11 miles (18 km) to the village of Yungay at an average speed of 280 to 335 km per hour.[6] The fast-moving mass picked up glacial deposits and by the time it reached Yungay, it is estimated to have consisted of about 80 million cubic meters (80,000,000 m³) of water, mud, and rocks.

Yungay Viejo (2500 m) as seen from the cemetery hill. The light shaded area shows the location of the landslide (ice, mud, debris avalanche), in which a part of the western flank of Huascaran Norte broke (6652 m). Yungay Nuevo is behind the shaded area in the center.

Casualties and damage[edit]

The reported death toll from the earthquake and avalanche totaled 74,194 people, although some estimates place it as high as 80,000. About 25,600 went missing and 143,331 were injured. Over 1,000,000 people were left homeless and other 3,000,000 were affected. In Yungay, 20,000 people died due to the landslide, and only 400 survived. Survivors included people who were at high points of the town, such as the cemetery, as well as 300 children attending a circus at the local stadium.

The earthquake affected an area of about 83,000 km², an area larger than Belgium and the Netherlands combined, in the north central coast and the Sierra (highlands) of the Ancash Region and southern La Libertad Region. Reports of damage and casualties from Tumbes to Pisco and Iquitos in the east. Damage and panic scenes were reported in some parts of Ecuador. Tremors were felt too in western and central Brazil.

It was a system-wide disaster, impacting such a widespread area that the regional infrastructure of communications, commerce, and transportation was destroyed. Economic losses surpassed half a billion US dollars. Cities, towns, peasant villages as well as the homes, industries, public buildings, schools, electrical, water, sanitary, and communications facilities on them were seriously damaged or destroyed.

Areas hard hit were the coastal towns and cities of Chimbote (the largest city in Ancash), Casma, Supe, and Huarmey; but the Andean valley known as the Callejón de Huaylas suffered the most intense and sweeping damage, with the regional capital, Huaraz, as well as Caraz and Aija being partially destroyed. Trujillo, the nation's third largest city, and Huarmey suffered minor damages.

In Chimbote, Carhuaz and Recuay, about 80% to 90% of buildings were destroyed, affecting about 3 million people.

The Pan-American highway was also damaged, which made the arrival of humanitarian aid difficult. The Cañón del Pato hydroelectricity generator was damaged by the Santa River and the railway connecting Chimbote with the Santa Valley was left unusable on 60% of its route.

The Peruvian government has forbidden excavation in the area where the town of Yungay is buried, declaring it a national cemetery. The children who survived in the oca stadium were resettled around the world. In 2000, the tragedy inspired the government to declare May 31 as Natural Disaster Education and Reflection Day.

Every May 31, many schools of Peru practice an earthquake drill in order to commemorate this disaster.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c ISC (2014), ISC-GEM Global Instrumental Earthquake Catalogue (1900-2009), Version 1.05, International Seismological Centre 
  2. ^ a b Plafker, Ericksen & Fernández Concha 1971, p. 545
  3. ^ a b Cluff, L.S. (1971), "Peru earthquake of May 31, 1970; Engineering geology observations" (PDF), Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (Seismological Society of America) 61 (3): 514 
  4. ^ a b Utsu, T. R. (2002), "A List of Deadly Earthquakes in the World: 1500-2000", International Handbook of Earthquake & Engineering Seismology, Part A, Volume 81A (First ed.), Academic Press, p. 708, ISBN 978-0124406520 
  5. ^ a b c USGS (September 4, 2009), PAGER-CAT Earthquake Catalog, Version 2008_06.1, United States Geological Survey 
  6. ^ Plafker, Ericksen & Fernández Concha 1971, p. 543

External links[edit]