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The 10 Deadliest Avalanche Events in History

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Yungay, Peru, 31 May 1970 (20,000 casualties- On 31 May 1970, an earthquake off the coast of Peru caused a substantial section of the north slope of Mt. Huascaran to collapse. [Situated in the Cordillera Blanca, the world's highest tropical mountain range, Mount Huascarán rises to 6768 m above sea-level.] The avalanche moved down hill at a speed of 100 MPH with a mass of roughly 80 million cubic feet of ice, mud and rock. It ran nearly 11 miles, burying the towns of Yungay and Ranrahirca in up to 300 feet of rock and debris. Estimates suggest that the earthquake killed over 20,000 people.

Tyrolean Alps, 13 December 1916 (10,000 casualties- Over a 24-hour period during World War 1 Italian and Austrian forces died in a series of avalanches caused by a mixture of heavy snowfall and man-made explosives. An entire barracks was destroyed, burying 250 officers. Up to 1918, mountainsides were bombed, resulting in an additional 40,000 deaths.

Ranrahirca, Peru, 10 January 1962 (3,500 casualties- Tons of melting snow from a storm a day earlier flowed down Nevado de Huascarán and fall into a canyon 3,000 feet below, obliterating two villages and killing almost a thousand people. Strong winds carry the melted mass along the narrow walls of the canyon to other communities which are instantly wiped out, too. Finally, a catastrophic 39 million feet of snow and debris exited out of the canyon and burst into the the town of Ranrahirca, burying everything in sight.

Plurs, Switzerland, 4 September 1618 (2,427 casualties- On September 4, 1618 the entire town of Plurs, Switzerland was wiped off the face of the earth when a massive avalanche, known as the Rodi avalanche, buried the town. Only four people, who were away from the village at the time, survived.

Swiss-Austrian-Italian Alps, 1950-1951 (over 265 casualties- In an unusual winter season known as the Winter of Terror, heavy snowstorms dump huge masses of snow and ice, creating a series of over 600 avalanches that occurred throughout the different national boundaries encompassed by the Alps. In Austria, more than 100 lives were lost, while Switzerland lost 92 lives.

Blons, Austria, 12 January 1954 (over 200 casualties- In what is regarded as Austria’s worst avalanche, the village center of Blons was destroyed by a mid-morning dry-snow avalanche called the Falv. Nine hours later, a second avalanche known as the Montclav moves 3,800 feet downhill in less than a minute, wiping out the village and burying 115 people, which included a team of rescuers.

Lahaul Valley, India, early March 1979 (200 casualties- A series of snowstorms over a five-day period results in avalanches that cascade down the foothills of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh state, dumping up to 20 feet of snow on the inhabited valley.

North Ossetia, Russia, 21 September 2002 (150 casualties- A collapsed glacial chunk on Mount Kazbek turned into a 20-million-ton avalanche that rampaged down Karmadon Gorge, burying several villages. Among the casualties was Russian actor/director Sergei Bodrov Jr., and his production crew, who were on location for a film shoot.

Siachen Glacier region, 7 April 2012 (140 casualties) - On 7 April 2012, an avalanche hit a Pakistani military base near the disputed Siachen Glacier region, trapping 140 soldiers and civilian contractors under deep snow. It is the worst avalanche that the Pakistani military has experienced in the area. On 29 May 2012, Pakistan declared that the 129 soldiers and 11 civilians were dead.

Wellington, Washington, March 1, 1910 (96 casualties) - For nine days at the end of February 1910, the little town of Wellington, Washington was assailed by a terrible blizzard.  As much as a foot of snow fell every hour, and, on the worst day, 11 feet (340 cm) of snow fell. Just after 1 a.m. on March 1, as a result of a lightning strike, a slab of snow broke loose from the side of Windy Mountain during a violent thunderstorm. A ten-foot high mass of snow, half a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, fell toward the town. Ninety-six people were killed, including 35 passengers, 58 Great Northern employees on the trains, and three railroad employees in the depot. Wellington was quietly renamed Tye during October 1910 because of the unpleasant associations of the old name.

 

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