Top 10 deadliest volcanic eruptions

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Updated on 18 May, 2012 at 11:14 am


Evidently, the day of volcanic eruption marks a landmark in the history of this world. Here, Topyaps is presenting some of the biggest volcanic eruptions that shook the world in years gone by.

10. Galunggung, Indonesia (8th October, 1882 – 4,011 Killed):

Galunggung erupted suddenly, spewing boiling mud, burning sulphur, ash and rocks before finally exploding and destroying a total of 114 villages. A further eruption in 1982 killed 68 people.

9. Kelut, Indonesia (19 May, 1919 – 5,110 Killed):

Dormant since 1901, Kelut erupted without warning, ejecting a crater lake that killed inhabitants by drowning or in resultant mudslides. The volcano remains active, erupting as recently as 2007.

8. Laki, Iceland (Jan-June, 1783 – 9,350):

Iceland is one of the most volcanically active places on Earth, but being sparsely populated eruptions seldom result in major loss of life. The worst exception occurred at the Laki volcanic ridge, culminating on 11 June with the largest ever recorded lava flow. It engulfed many villages in a river of lava up to 80 km 150 miles long and 30 m 1100 ftl deep, releasing poisonous gases that killed those who managed to escape.
7. Unzen, Japan (1st April, 1792 – 14,300 Killed):

During a period of intense volcanic activity in the area, the island of Unzen lor Unsenl completely disappeared, killing all its inhabitants.


6. Mount Etna, Sicily (1169 – 15,000Killed):

Large numbers died in Catania Cathedral, where they believed they would be safe, and more were killed when a tsunami caused by the eruption hit the port of Messina.

5. Mount Etna, Sicily (11 March 1669 – 20,000 Killed):

Europe·s largest volcano 13,280 m/10,760 ttl has erupted frequently, but the worst instance occurred in 1669, when the lava flow engulfed the town of Catania, according to some accounts killing as many as 20,000.

4. Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia (13 November 1985 – 22,940):

The Andean volcano gave warning signs of erupting, but by the time it was decided to evacuate the local inhabitants, it was too late. The hot steam, rocks and ash ejected from Nevado del Ruiz melted its icecap, resulting in a mudslide that completely engulfed the town of Armero.

3. Mont Pelee, Martinique (8th May, 1902 – 27,000):

After lying dormant for centuries, Mont Pelee began to erupt in April 1902. Assured that there was no danger, the residents of the main city, St Pierre, stayed in their homes and were there when, at 7.30 a.m. on 8 May, the volcano burst apart and showered the port with molten lava, ash and gas, destroying virtually all life and property. Among the survivors was Louis-Auguste Sylbaris, a prisoner in the St Pierre jail, who later joined Barnum and Bailey·s circus as· The Amazing Survivor of Mont Pelee.

2. Krakatoa, Sumatra (26-27 August, 1883 – 36,380):

After a series of eruptions over the course of several days, the uninhabited island of Krakatoa exploded with what may have been the biggest bang ever heard by humans, audible up to 4,800 km 13,000 miles) away. Some sources put the fatalities as high as 200,000, most of them killed by subsequent tsunamis that reached 30 m 1100 ft) high. The events were portrayed in the 1969 film Krakatoa, East of Java – though purists should note that Krakatoa is actually west of Java.


1. Tambora, Indonesia (5-12 April, 1815 – 92,000):

It has been calculated that between 1600 and 1982 a total of 160,783 people lost their lives as a result of volcanoes in Indonesia, the greatest number for any region in the world. The cataclysmic eruption of Tambora on the island of Sumbawa killed about 10,000 islanders immediately, with a further 82,000 dying subsequently 138,000 on Sumbawa and 44,000 on neighbouring Lombok) from disease and famine because crops were destroyed. An estimated 1.7 million tonnes of ash was hurled into the atmosphere. This blocked out the sunlight and affected the weather over large areas of the globe during the following year. One effect of this was to produce brilliantly coloured sunsets, as depicted strikingly in paintings from the period, especially in the works of J. M. W. Turner. It even influenced literary history when, kept indoors by inclement weather at the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva, Lord Byron and his companions amused themselves by writing horror stories, one of which was Mary Shelley”s classic, Frankenstein.

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