On Tuesday, July 7, 1970, President Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon, hosted delegates from the Organization of American States at the White House. RN began by praising the organization for its equal representation of the people of large and small countries, of rich and poor countries, and people of different religions, languages, and backgrounds. He then spoke for the entire congregation as he expressed his deepest sympathies for the disaster victims of the recent Peruvian earthquake.
In 1970, the South American country suffered a quake of magnitude 8.0 on the Richter scale, lasting for 45 seconds. The Great Peruvian Earthquake, also known as the 1970 Ancash earthquake, originated 35km off the Peruvian coast near the cities of Ancash and La Libertad on the afternoon of May 31 of that year.
The quake devastated the country as it triggered avalanches, burying several towns under debris, ice, and snow. Coastal cities were racked by enormous waves caused by the seismic activity. Over 3 million people were affected by the natural disaster, several hundred thousand of which were left homeless. 75,000 people lost their lives and another 25,000 were deemed missing. The infrastructure of the country was severely compromised and almost the entire communications system was in shambles. This wide-spread destruction may have contributed to delaying humanitarian aid to the country, but First Lady Pat Nixon determinedly traveled to Peru to witness the aftermath and led a major international humanitarian effort.
She helped donate and distribute some 10 tons of food, clothing and medical supplies, and garnered the support and involvement of several relief organizations for the Peruvian people. For her efforts, the First Lady received from the Peruvian government the highest decoration their country could bestow, The Grand Cross of the Order of the Sun, making her the first North American woman ever to receive the award.
Photo: First Lady Pat Nixon tours the aftermath of the 1970 Earthquake in Peru.