National Geographic : 1962 Jun
HS EKTACHROME(BELOW) AND KODACHROME© NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Jagged scar, white as bone, marks the avalanche route where grind ing ice, cutting into dark-skinned granite, bared unweathered stone. Rolling out of its bed beyond the clouds, the glacier splashed into the Rio de Shacsha Valley, then changed course with a bounce. Mountain-eye view shows site of Yanamachico (foreground). Slide ends in the Santa River, whose waters carried bodies 100 miles to the sea. The photograph, looking southwest, shows features from a dif ferent angle than the painting on pages 862-3. Ranrahirca and vicinity. In the next few seconds this avalanche would complete one of history's great human disasters. Yellow dust engulfed the mayor's view and gritted the eyes of electrician Olivera. "The girls were torn from my hands-by the winds or by a wall of mud, I do not know," said Olivera. "Electric wires had fallen around me. The girls were gone. Somehow, I came free." The avalanche had now reached the valley bottom, nine miles from its mountain perch, where it crashed into the Santa River, damming it with debris (opposite). It was 6:20. From the hillside, Herminia Mejia saw the Santa River spill out of its banks to seek a new course; her potato patch was flooded. As the yellow dust sifted to earth, Mayor Caballero stood mute. "I could speak neither an oath nor a prayer." The Sefiora de Narcisa would never return to her children. The party at the Guzman house, the rich Sefior Mendez and his fine home, the church and its worshipers-all were gone. "I regained my senses," said Olivera. "Looking toward the village, I saw only a waste of mud and ice. I was impressed by a profound silence. Realizing that my wife, my children, my parents were all 866 buried under the debris, I suddenly found myself sobbing."