Special Report

Most Devastating Volcanic Eruptions in History

Source: By Wally Johnson / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

6. Mount Lamington
> Year: 1951
> Location: Papua New Guinea

Prior to its eruption in 1951, residents of the surrounding Oro Province didn’t know that Mount Lamington was a volcano. Starting in mid-January, the volcano emitted multiple blasts — including a massive explosion on January 21 — that killed more than 3,000 people and continuously hampered rescue efforts in the area.

Source: Peter Hamel, National Park Service / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

7. Novarupta
> Year: 1912
> Location: Alaska

The largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, Novarupta had a VEI of 6 and ejected over three cubic miles of ash and magma during its 60-hour eruption. Fortunately, the remote location of the volcano meant minimal damage to human settlements and no deaths. Some native Alaskan villages, however, were abandoned and relocated due to ash fall.

Source: inho Lee / iStock via Getty Images

8. Paektu Mountain
> Year: 946
> Location: Korea

With a VEI of 7, the eruption of Paektu Mountain was one of the largest in recorded history. The massive blast ejected over 24 cubic miles of debris, and created a caldera that now contains a 3.79-square-mile lake. Although the event temporarily altered the weather in neighboring Manchuria, evidence suggests that the eruption did not have drastic effects on the world climate.

9. Ritter Island
> Year: 1888
> Location: Papua New Guinea

The 1888 eruption and collapse of Ritter Island — a steep-sided cone which is estimated to have been originally over 2,500 feet tall — left only a small crescent of land jutting out above the water. It is the largest volcanic island collapse ever recorded. A massive tsunami followed the eruption and wiped out coastal areas on multiple surrounding islands.

10. Mount Pinatubo
> Year: 1991
> Location: The Philippines

Mount Pinatubo’s massive VEI 6 eruption sent debris as high as 15 miles and ash up to 25 miles into the atmosphere. Pyroclastic flow filled in many river valleys, and typhoon rains mixed with debris, causing mudslides and collapsing roofs. Although the main eruption didn’t occur until June 15, seismic activity in the area during the previous months led to evacuation efforts before the blast that saved tens of thousands of lives.

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