A massive chunk of ice from a glacier in the Andes, measuring 1,640 feet by 656 feet, plummeted into a lake in Peru yesterday, resulting in a tsunami that swept through villages along the shore, injuring scores and carrying away at least three. The 75 foot wave generated by the event overtook levees, destroying homes and an important water treatment facility. Peru is home to 70 percent of the world's tropical ice fields, which have been receding in recent years due to rising global temperatures. Similar collapses have occurred in the past, claiming thousands of lives--so while this most recent devastation may have been comparatively minor, officials fear that may not be the case as melting continues.The glacier break and resulting tsunami occurred in the Andes near the city of Carhuaz, 200 miles north of Lima. According to the AFP, the chunk of ice fell into a lake which sent the massive wave charging through a river outlet. Approximately 20 homes were destroyed, though a water processing facility was also damaged which effects 60,000 residents in the area. Globo reports that three people were killed.
Local governor Cesar Alvarez met with reporters and let it be known what he believes the real culprit behind the tsunami is:
Because of global warming the glaciers are going to detach and fall on these overflowing lakes. This is what happened today
This isn't the first time this region of Peru has witnessed disaster. Forty years ago, more than 20,000 people were killed when an earthquake triggered a landslide that buried a town near Carhuaz. Considering the rate in which glaciers in the Andes are melting, however, it's clear that human activity played a major role in this most recent event.
Just last year, the World Bank reported that in the next two decades, the Andes' ice sheets may disappear completely if measures to combat global warming are not implemented. The report indicated that Peru has lost roughly 22 percent of its glaciers in the last 35 years, and yesterday's break-off shows the trend is not slowing.
So often, projections about the effects of climate change can seem distant or abstract, but events, like the one that occurred yesterday in Peru, put it into reality--and the list is growing. Deaths from unprecedented rainfall in Brazil, villages uprooted by desertification in China, livelihoods devastated by droughts in Africa, to name a few, are provide current evidence of a human toll from climate change--and a falling chunk of ice in Peru adds one more to that grim list.
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