ABOUT HUARAZ

Huaraz is in north-central Peru, about 420 km north of Lima, and at an altitude of 3,052 metres (10,013 ft). It is the largest population center in the agriculturally important Callejón de Huaylas valley. The Callejón (in Spanish roughly meaning large valley or corridor) is a north-south valley bounded on the east by the Cordillera Blanca (permanent white snowcaps and glaciers) and on the west by the Cordillera Negra (no permanent snowcapped peaks or glaciers, hence black). The Cordillera Blanca includes Huascarán, the highest mountain in Peru at 6,768 metres (22,205 ft) and the third highest in the Western Hemisphere. Huascarán and the adjacent peak Huandoy in fair weather are clearly visible from Huaraz.

The Rio Santa (Santa River) flows north through Huaraz. It is not commercially navigable but has always furnished the city with good water. The river is a rocky-bottom narrow stream of glacier-fed cold water that flows generally west of center in the Callejón, running north to the valley's north end. There it rushes downward through the narrow Canyon del Pato (Duck Canyon), turns westward at the town of Huallanca, and continues to the coast where it enters the Pacific Ocean south of the city of Chimbote. The Rio Santa is the traditional west boundary of Huaraz, although part of the city's population has lived on the west bank there for as long as two centuries.

The nominal north boundary of Huaraz is along a westward flowing creek that empties into the Rio Santa. The creek, whose watershed is the west face and foothills of the Cordillera Blanca, has twice since 1940 been the channel of two devastating earthquake-precipitated floods (see below).

The most recent devastating flood and avalanche along this creek bed was a result of the 1970 earthquake. The avalanche of 1941 had filled the creek valley with debris, covering the new suburb on the city's north edge. The 1970 avalanche and floodwaters down this creek valley destroyed the city's north-side subdivision, partially rebuilt in the late 1960s. Avalanche debris also created a temporary natural dam across the Rio Santa, which barrier caused flooding throughout much of the city. The quake had wrecked almost all the city's major buildings. Over the next few days the city was devastated by flooding from both the creek and the river and by water-borne earthquake debris.