The Peruvian Tsunami of June 23, 2001

click on the map above to see photos from the trip


At approximately 15:33 local time on June 23, 2001, southern Peru was rocked by a massive earthquake of moment magnitude between 8.3 to 8.4, making this event the largest earthquake world-wide in possibly 35 years. The quake, centered near the Peruvian coastal city of Ocoña (just north of Camana in figure aoove), generated strong shaking across all of southern Peru and northern Chile. Many cities and towns in the region sustained heavy damage, especially the Peruvian towns of Moquegua, Punta de Bombon, and the mountain city of Arequipa. In addition, the earthquake and resulting rockslides badly damaged several stretches of the Pan-American Highway, a route vital to the economy of southern Peru.


The earthquake also generated a tsunami, which struck the Peruvian coast, and was observed on tide gauges across the Pacific Ocean. In Peru, damage from the tsunami was, fortunately, limited to the south central portion of coastline stretching from the town of Atico in the north, to Matarani in the south. The area surrounding the city of Camana, located directly in the center of the affected coastline, was hit hardest by the waves. Here, maximum runup measuremnents exceeded 7 meters in some locations, with greater than one kilometer of inundation distance in others. The powerful surges destroyed hundreds of homes, hotels and restaurants in La Punta, a popular resort area located along a narrow strip of beach imediately south of Camana. Thankfully, the tsunami occured during the southern hemisphere winter, when the beach front communities were largely deserted. Approximately 26 people area known to have perished as a result of the tsunami, with roughly 70 still missing. Though tragic however, this death toll is still fairly light, considering the location. Had the tsunami struck during the peak of the summer tourist season, the loss of life would have been far worse.

Eyewitness accounts of the event vary somewhat in terms of the number of tsunami waves, and as to which was the largest. According to eyewitnesses, the tsunami consisted of between three and five seperate surges, with either the second or third as the largest. Accounts from Camana, believed to be the most reliable, describe four surges, the largest of which was the third.


On July 5, 2001, a nine scientists nine scientists from the International Tsunami Survey Team (ITST) traveled from the United States and Mexico to Peru to survey the area affected by the tsunami. The ITST worked closely with Peruvian scientists from the Direccion de Hidrografia y Navegacion of the Peruvian Navy. Without the support of the Peruvians, the trip would not have been as successful. During the field survey, members of the team examined tsunami damage, measured runup and inundation, and interviewed eyewitnesses to the event. This web page shows some photos from the trip and the afflicted areas.

Click on the map above to see photos from the trip.


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