I got home last night having been stuck in Bagua Grande behind the wreckage of the recent North Peru earthquake. The earthquake, which is reported to have measured 6.4 on the Richter scale, was felt throughout the region, form Tarapoto to Moyobamba and on to Pedro Ruiz and Bagua.
North Peru Earthquake Blocks Main Highway
The earthquake triggered a massive landslide between the towns of Bagua and Pedro Ruiz, sweeping away about 1km of the FBT (Fernando Belaunde Terry) road. The destruction of this stretch of road has effectively severed road transportation between the north Peruvian coast and towns such as Chachapoyas, Moyobamba and Tarapoto.
Estimates vary greatly as to the expected repair of this section of highway – 7 days was being mentioned, but to me that seems incredibly optimistic. Crossing on foot remains the only option for now; if you are planning on making the trip then prepare for a long walk and take as little baggage as you can.
Military personnel were blocking off traffic for a few kilometers either side of the landslide and passenger transport was limited at best between Bagua and Pedro Ruiz (we were lucky to get a ride on the back of a motorbike from the landslide to Pedro Ruiz – others had to walk 4 or 5 hours to get to the town).
Movil Tours Bus Company and North Peru Quake
We left Lima by bus with Movil Tours and arrived in Bagua approximately 8 hours after the earthquake. Staff at the Movil Tours terminal in Bagua didn’t seem to know what to do with their passengers – some slept in the bus until the next day (when the military began to let people cross the area on foot) while others stayed in hotels or returned to Chiclayo.
Despite the chaos in the terminal and the numerous accusations and claims for refunds, Movil actually served their passengers quite well (in my opinion) by having a bus waiting in Pedro Ruiz to take their ticket holders onto their final destinations.
Again, if you are planning on travelling by bus to any of the destinations along this route check the current situation well in advance and try to get more than one opinion as to the present nature of the affected area. If you are travelling light then crossing on foot is an option. Otherwise, you might be better off waiting for a few days (weeks?) or flying between Lima and Tarapoto.
I have a question: the shake mape made by USGS shows an instrumental intensity that does not exceed VI at most and so it seems to me very low for triggering a so dramatic landlslide.
Have you an explanation? Is it possible that there has been heavy rains at the quake time?
As far as I’m aware the conditions were wet although not dramatically so – light rainfall was certainly apparent but I don’t think there was any exceptionally heavy rainfall prior to the quake. I could be wrong about that, and I’m certainly no expert on such matters, but that’s how it appeared to me.
One thing that seemed strange to me was that, despite the wreckage caused by the landslide, the area seemed to be very stable the following morning. I’ve crossed landslides caused by heavy rains on plenty of occasions, mainly in Bolivia and Peru, and the affected areas always seemed to remain unstable for some time (with an obvious risk, or continuation, of further landslides). It wasn’t like that on this occasion – the steep sides of the affected area either side of what was the road were relatively stable, and heavy machinery was already at work up on the ridges above.
I don’t know if that means anything to you – as I said, I’m no expert in these matters!
thank you for the quick answer.
Yet, what you say is important because in this way is quite clear that the landslide has been triggered by an external event.
I continue to think that a so massive landslide is not an easy occurrence for a so small quake (in terms of local ground acceleration. But the landslide has really been occurred….
Tony, I’m planning on flying to Tarapoto from Iquitos about July 13 and then taking the bus to Trujillo around the 17th. What’s the situation with the road damage caused by the earthquake? If not repaired do they have an idea of when it will be? Thanks for your help Gary
I haven’t seen it myself since the event, but I’ve been told by various people here in Tarapoto that cars and buses are getting through OK on a make-shift road. So, unless heavy rains damage the new temporary road, things are almost back to normal. You shouldn’t have any problems crossing by bus in July. It’s a pretty vital road, so I’d imagine that the reconstruction effort is a priority. If I hear anything else I’ll post a new comment here.
Thanks Tony. If I make it there I’ll look you up and buy us a cold one ! Gary