Paez River Earthquake

The Paez river disaster was caused by a rather superficial earthquake (with a 10 km deep epicentre, 6.4 on the Richter scale) and subsequent mudslide that destroyed the small town of Paez, located on the foothills of the Central Cordillera of the Andes in Cauca Department in South-western Colombia, which took place on June 6, 1994. It was estimated that killed 1,100 people, mostly from the Paez ethnia were killed in some 15 settlements on the Paez River basin, Cauca and Huila Departments of which the homonymous town of Paez suffered 50% of the death toll.

On June 6, 1994, an earthquake of a 6.4 magnitude on the Richter scale, whose epicenter was the municipality of Paez, shook the region of Tierradentro, located on the slopes of the Nevado del Huila volcano. It affected 15 municipalities of the Cauca and Huila Departments in different degrees, extending to almost 10,000Km2.The earthquake triggered thousands of landslides which blocked the rivers that run through deep valleys surrounded by vertical mountains. These temporary dams, which had formed rapidly, broke causing, in a matter of hours, an overwhelming flow of mud and debris, with avalanches that descended to the riverbed of the Paez river, causing death and destruction.