I Visited Yungay, The Town That Disappeared, And It Broke My Heart
On a normal afternoon on 31st May, 1970, a quiet town in Peru suffered what is now the most catastrophic disaster in Peru’s history. Yungay, a small highland town, was completely wiped out along with all of it’s 25,000 residents, in a matter of minutes.
It happened at around 3:23pm, when most of the locals were watching the Italy v. Brazil world cup game. A devastating earthquake struck, hitting 8.0 on the Richter scale, it’s epicentre deep in the Pacific ocean. The earthquake devastated over a 83,000 mile radius, tearing up homes and roads. It remains one of the worst earthquakes to have ever hit South America.
But what happened in Yungay was even worse.
I was completely heartbroken wandering around the mass-graveyard that is all that remains of the town. Now a peaceful place, scattered with roses and memorials, what happened back on that day in 1970 was hard to stomach.
The earthquake destabilised a glacier sitting high up on the mountains above Yungay. 10 million cubic metres of ice, rock, and snow tore down the mountainside at 120 miles per hour. Just moments later, Yungay and every single inhabitant in that town at the time was buried by the landslide.
The only survivors in the town: Those who raced the steps up to the cemetery that overlooked the town. Ironically, the only safe place to be, and the only place one would survive such devastation below.
That earthquake claimed 74,000 people that day, and over 25,000 were declared missing. The missing were those that were buried beneath the ice and rock of the Yungay avalanche. The near impossible task of retrieving those people was laid to rest, and the entire ground that was once the town of Yungay is now a national cemetery.
An entire town, wiped out in minutes, the only things that remain are four palm trees, which stand out above the metre-deep rubble; the church steeple; a bus, twisted into the ground; and the cemetery, which still watches over the town as it had back on that day in 1970.
Today the old site of Yungay remains a place to remember those who lost their lives. It is now just a part of the Peruvian highlands, and anyone who didn’t know would never guess that an entire civilization was below the ground.
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Simple Graves Are All That Remain Of The Town’s People
The Stunning Peruvian Highlands, Hiding A Terrible Loss
A Bus Twisted Into The Ground
The Four Remaining Palm Trees
The Remains of the Church, Sadly One Of The Only Things That Survived
The Remains of the Church
The Church Entrance, Half Buried Beneath The Ground
The Original Town, Now Buried Metres Below The Ground
Yungay Today: Now a Peaceful Resting Place
Roses Were Planted to Remember the Dead
A Mournful Local Paying His Respects
A Memorial, Erected To Remember the 25,000 People Buried Below.
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