27 February 2020
Breaking News: a catastrophic glacier collapse and mudflow in Salkantay, Peru
On 23 February 2020 (corrected – this was erroneously reported as 24 February 2020) an enormous, catastrophic debris flow tore down the Salkantay River in Santa Teresa, Peru. This event has killed at least four people, with a further 13 reported to be missing. Given the magnitude of the flow, this number is probably uncertain.
The mudflow was captured in an extraordinary video posted to Youtube:-
A mudflow on this scale usually requires an extraordinary cause. Diario Correo in Peru has an explanation – this event was caused by glacial collapse on Salkantay mountain. This hypothesis is proposed by Oscar Vilca Gómez, who the article describes as a specialist in Hydrology and Glaciology. He visited the site site of the detachment as part of a research team from the National Institute for Glacier Research of the Ministry of Environment. They propose that an ice / rock avalanche detached from the mountain, crossed the Salkantay Cocha lake, and generated the huge debris flow.
The article includes the following image of the site:-
In first inspection this appears to be a wedge failure in the rock mass that has fragmented to generate the rock / ice avalanche. The photographer appears to be standing on the landslide deposit.
Salkantay (which also appears to be named Salcantay at times) is located at -13.340, -72.540. Salkantay Cocha lake appears to be at -13.342, -72.569. At the moment it is not clear as to which slope has failed to generate this ice-rock avalanche and debris flow. There is excellent Google Earth imagery of this area, so it should be possible to get a better understanding in due course.
At the moment details of this very significant event are somewhat unclear; I hope that more details will emerge. This event is reminiscent of the 2012 Gayari ice and rock avalanche in Pakistan and the 2017 Villa Santa Lucia landslide in Chile.