Melted Ice Destroys a City: Huaraz, 1941
This chapter analyzes the onset of Cordillera Blanca glacier disasters in 1941 through an examination of a glacial lake outburst flood that killed 5,000 people and destroyed one-third of the Ancash capital city of Huaraz in the Callejón de Huaylas. In the aftermath, Peruvians scrambled not only to survive and rebuild but also to determine the cause of the flood. While hazard mitigation began right after the catastrophe, it progressed haphazardly during the 1940s. Just as the 1941 flood made urban residents in Huaraz intimately aware of the previously unrecognized melting glaciers over their city, the glacial lake disaster made Peruvians in Lima and elsewhere significantly more aware of the Andean mountains—both their peril and their possibilities. Local urban and rural residents, engineers, scientists, and government officials who began studying glacial lake hazards after 1941 all brought their own perspectives about glaciers, construing them simultaneously as hazards and resources.
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