Massive Glacier Triggers 'Tsunami' in Lake

Published April 13, 2010

| SkyNews

A huge glacier has broken off and plunged into a lake in Peru sparking a 23-meter high tsunami wave that destroyed a nearby town.

The massive chunk of ice --called Hualcan glacier, it was around the size of four soccer fields -- tumbled into the '513 lake' in the Andes near Carhuaz, around 200 miles north of Lima. 

According to the Indeci civil defense institute, 50 homes have been destroyed. A water processing plant serving 60,000 local residents was also devastated when the wave struck on Sunday.

Initially, six people were reported missing, feared dead under the debris -- but local governor Cesar Alvarez has said five of those have been found alive. Authorities evacuated mountain valleys, fearing more ice breakage after the tsunami, which are most commonly caused by earthquakes.

Blaming climate change, Mr Alvarez said: "Because of global warming the glaciers are going to detach and fall on these overflowing lakes. This is what happened."

Investigators have said the ice block from the Hualcan glacier measured 1,600 feet  by 650 feet.

Patricio Vaderrama, a Peruvian glacier expert, said: "The tsunami wave breached the lake's levees, which are 23m high -- meaning the wave was 23m high," or 75 feet. 

Peru is home to 70 percent of the world's tropical ice fields.

A 2009 World Bank report warned Andean glaciers and the region's permanently snow-covered peaks could disappear in 20 years if no measures are taken to tackle climate change.

According to the report, in the last 35 years Peru's glaciers have shrunk by 22 percent.

In 1970, 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.

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