Ice hazard

Published: Thursday 15 May 2003

Glacial peril (Credit: NASA)An unstable glacier in Peru has raised fears of flooding. A huge lump of the glacier, which feeds Palcacocha lake in the Andes, is threatening to crack and drop into the lake below.

Peruvian authorities are using satellite images from the us -based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (nasa) to monitor the situation. They fear that the glacial breakup could flood the city of Huaraz in the Rio Santa Valley located underneath.

Floods caused by glacial breaks are known locally as 'aluviones'. The bounding waters released from lakes sometimes pound the villages in their path with boulders and enormous chunks of ice. Till quite recently, the Rio Santa Valley used to experience aluviones frequently. In 1941, one destructive glacial flood killed between 5,000 and 7,000 people. That tragedy forced the Peruvian government to regulate the water levels of Palcacocha lake and other water bodies in the area. The flood control attempts seem to have succeeded as no devastating deluges have been reported after 1972.

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