The Big Picture: Resolute Peruvians After the Bagua Earthquake

Travellers stuck behind the wreckage of the Bagua earthquake had two options: turn back to the north coast or cross the twisted landscape on foot.

The 6.4 magnitude quake of May 2010 had obliterated large sections of the Fernando Belaunde Terry Highway between Bagua and Pedro Ruiz. At first, the military had restricted access to the entire zone. An ever-growing crowd of stranded passengers waited at the roadblock, keen to begin the tough trek across the fractured ground.

These resolute Peruvians waited patiently, sitting around on large boxes and bulging bags — luggage they would have to carry, for all they knew, for more than five hours to the town of Pedro Ruiz. After a few hours, the military lifted its blockade. With little hesitation, the assembled mass of men, women and children hoisted belongings and set off along the cracked and steeply climbing highway.

The midsection was nothing but earth and rock, the strewn aftermath of a landslide. People helped each other up the unstable slopes, some scrambling on all fours. Tired and muddied, the stranded passengers struggled on, bags and boxes pressing down on determined shoulders.

It was an impressive sight, like a stream of refugees fleeing from a war zone. But there were still smiles on tired faces. And these Peruvians were on the march.

Turn back to the coast? Not them, they were going home, and that was all that really mattered.

Photos © Tony Dunnell

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