The Heat Is Online

Peruvian Glacier Slide Triggers Tsunami

Peru glacier break worries ecologists, government officials

UPI, April 13, 2010
LIMA, April 13 (UPI) -- A Peruvian glacier break that killed three people and smashed a water processing plant serving 60,000 citizens is worrying ecologists and government officials amid fears other glacier disasters may be on way but will be costly or impossible to predict.

A state of emergency was in force in the Ancash region in central Peru as authorities rushed to evacuate nearby valleys and isolated communities. Hospital sources said they made preparations for more casualties.

The huge Adean glacier broke off and plunged into a lake near the town of Carhuaz, in Ancash province, causing huge waves and massive property damage.

First reports said a wave swept away at least three people and wrecked the water treatment plant, MercoPress reported.

There was no warning of the glacier splitting off or of the waves it triggered, first reports about Monday's incident said.

Analysts said the indicated the glaciers in the region were volatile, a worrying situation for Peru, which lacks resources to deal with glacier-related contingencies.

There was no immediate impact on Lima of the incident that hit the Carhuaz region, about 200 miles north of the capital, but officials said efforts were under way to restore emergency water supply to the communities in the area.

The three confirmed dead were fishermen who were swept away in the huge wave that smashed through the lake's 76-foot-high levees.

Patricio Vaderrama, a glacier expert at the Institute of Mine Engineers, said the wave would had been at least the height of the levee, perhaps higher, to be able to smash the barriers.

Analysts said Peru appeared ill-prepared for climate change, which could see its tropical ice fields disappear altogether, in the region.

Peru is the third Latin American country to face a natural disaster within six weeks. Chile was struck by a magnitude-8.8 earthquake in February and floods and landslides lashed Rio de Janeiro, the city and the region in Brazil, this month. The death toll from the Rio de Janeiro mudslides was at least 400.

The glacier slide is the second ice-related incident in the Ancash region in 40 years. In 1970, an earthquake near the Carhuaz region triggered an avalanche of ice, rock and mud on the mountain of Huascaran that buried the town of Yungay, killing more than 20,000 people.

Officials and scientists it was too early to confirm the extent of the glacier break damage.

Ancash Gov. Cesar Alvarez told the media, "There is a large crack, 100 meters (330 feet) long and 30 meters (about 99 feet) wide, in the Hualcan peak, and if it finally falls down on the lagoon, it would create a mudslide four times bigger that the previous one."

He predicted more trouble ahead. "Because of global warming the glaciers are going to detach and fall on these overflowing lakes," he said.

A 2009 World Bank report warned that Andean glaciers and the region's permanently snow-covered peaks could disappear in 20 years. The glaciers have shrunk 22 percent in recent years and Peru has 12 percent less fresh water as a result.

© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Glacier breaks in Peru, causing Andes tsunami

Three people missing after 75-foot wave

Reuters, April 12, 2010

LIMA - A huge glacier broke off and plunged into a lake in Peru, causing a 75-foot tsunami wave that swept away at least three people and destroyed a water processing plant serving 60,000 local residents, government officials said.

The ice block tumbled into a lake in the Andes Sunday near the town of Carhuaz, some 200 miles north of the capital, Lima. Three people were feared buried in debris.

Investigators said the chunk of ice from the Hualcan glacier measured 1,640 feet by 656 feet

"This slide into the lake generated a tsunami wave, which breached the lake's levees, which are 23 metres high -- meaning the wave was 23 metres high," said Patricio Vaderrama, an expert on glaciers at Peru's Institute of Mine Engineers.

It was one of the most concrete signs yet that glaciers are disappearing in Peru, home to 70 percent of the world's tropical icefields. Scientists say warmer temperatures will cause them to melt away altogether within 20 years.

In 1970, not far from Carhuaz, an earthquake triggered an avalanche of ice, rock and mud on the mountain of Huascaran that buried the town of Yungay, killing more than 20,000 people who lived below Peru's tallest peak, which sits 22,204 feet above sea level.

Copyright 2010 Reuters.