On May 31, 1970, an earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale shook loose some 15 million cubic meters of rock and ice that cascaded down the west wall of Huascarán Norte. In the quiet village of Yungay, some 14 km (8½ miles) away, people were going about their normal activities. Some were waiting for a soccer game to be broadcast on the radio; others were watching the Verolina Circus set up in the stadium. Then the debris slammed into town at a speed of more than 322 km (200 miles) per hour. Almost all of Yungay's 18,000 inhabitants were buried alive. The quake ultimately claimed nearly 70,000 lives throughout Peru.

The government never rebuilt in Yungay, but left it as a memorial to those who had died. They now call the area Campo Santo, and people visit the site daily. Walking through the ruined town, you'll see upturned buses, the few remaining walls of the cathedral, and, oddly, a couple of palm trees that managed to survive the disaster. There's a large white cross at the old cemetery on the hill south of town. It was here that 92 people who were tending the graves of friends and relatives were on high-enough ground to survive. You pay a nominal S/5 to enter the site.

New Yungay was built just beyond the aluvión path—behind a protective knoll. It’s a modern town with little of interest, though it serves as a starting point for those visiting the spectacular Lagunas de Llanganuco.

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