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Analysis, Curiosity

Four of Asia’s deadliest volcanoes

A string of volcanic eruptions around the Pacific rim gives us the opportunity to look back at the deadliest volcanic events in modern Asian history.


Written by

Updated: March 13, 2018

Japan’s Shinmoedake volcano erupted in early March, the latest in a string of eruptions around Asia.

The volcano, which was featured in a James Bond film, erupted for the first time since 2011 causing flights to be cancelled at a nearby airport.

No injuries have been reported thus far, but Japan and indeed other Asian nations have not always been so lucky. Here are some of the most devastating volcanic eruptions to hit Asia in the past 100 years.

Mount Kelud, Indonesia

In 1919, over 5,000 people were killed when Mount Kelud erupted so violently that the top of the volcano was blown off.

The eruptions happened suddenly and were over relatively quickly for a volcano, lasting six to seven hours, Surono, the country’s top volcano expert said, according to ABC News.

The 1,731-metre volcano is located in Indonesia’s heavily populated island of Java, where hundreds of thousands live in close proximity to active volcanos.

Other major eruptions occurred in 1990, which resulted in more than 30 deaths and injured hundreds, and in 2014, which killed 3.

Mount Agung Indonesia

The Island of Bali, now one of Indonesia’s most popular tourist destinations, became a scene of devastation in 1963 when Mount Agung erupted for the first time in 120 years, killing about 1,600 people.

Rumbling in February was followed by a series of eruptions, the most significant occurring on March 17, when the volcano spewed debris up to 10 km in the air, destroying dozens of villages within 7km radius.

In the days that followed, three villages in the lower mountain slopes were surrounded by streams of lava. Many survivors had to be hospitalised due to burns.

Food became another concern, with 200,000 people facing the risk of famine after hectares of rice crops were destroyed by lava flows.

Those outside the island were not spared the volcano’s wrath, with ash reaching as far as Madura and Surabaya in East Java province. Even parts of the country’s capital city, Jakarta, were affected.

Mount Merapi, Indonesia

Located in central Java, Mount Merapi is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Its name means “mountain of fire” in Javanese, and it has certainly lived up to it, often unleashing deadly pyroclastic flows when it erupts, which can reach temperatures of 1000 degrees centigrade, according to the Telegraph.

In 1930, a massive eruption occurred, destroying 13 villages and killing 1,400 people.

More recently, in 2010, a violent series of eruptions – its worst since 1930 – claimed hundreds of lives. Villages in the surrounding area went up in flames and tens of thousands were forced to flee their homes, according to the BBC.

Mount Pinatubo, Philippines

The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines was considered the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, according to the Rappler.

The volcano had remained dormant for almost 600 years when small signs of activity were observed on June 11. Four days later, on June 15, a massive eruption occurred, with the volcano emitting a cloud of debris 40 km above its crater.

The volume of material ejected was so large, it caused global temperatures to drop temporarily, according to USGS.

The volcano’s original crater was also destroyed by the blast, to be replaced by a new one with a lake.

Despite the intensity of the blast and the extent of the destruction in the surrounding areas, the death toll was surprisingly low. A total of 717 people lost their lives, Rappler reported, citing Phivolcs data. Of these, 281 of died indirectly from the eruption, 83 died because of lahars – volcanic mudflows – and 353 from exposure to diseases at evacuation centers.



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Nadia Chevroulet
About the Author: Nadia is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

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