Volcanoes are formed when gases, volcanic ash and hot lava escapes from the magma chamber underneath the surface of the Earth, that’s why volcanoes are formed where the tectonic plates are converging or diverging. Volcanoes erupt as the pressure of magma and gasses increase and they burst out from the top of the volcano.
Volcanic eruptions are violent, dangerous and some time catastrophic, these eruptions have killed millions of people throughout history. At any given time there are there are approximately 20 volcanoes that are erupting on earth and there are 50-70 volcanoes that are erupting each year.
Here is the list of top ten most deadliest volcanic eruptions.
The Santorini eruption is also known as the Thera eruption or the Minoan eruption as it occurred when the Minoan civilisation was at its peak. The eruption occurred almost 3,600 years ago and experts suggest that this single event may be the reason for the collapse of the entire Minoan civilization.
According to latest studies the eruption spewed almost 61 cubic kilometers of rock and magma into the atmosphere of Earth. Although there is no record for the number of deaths in this incident, the eruption was so powerful that it has been linked with the sinking of Atlantis and the biblical exodus. It also caused famine in China.
09. Mount Kelud
Mount Kelud is located on the Pacific Ring Of Fire near East Java, Indonesia, it is an active stratovolcano and it has erupted more than 30 times since 1,000 AD. Most recently it erupted on February 13, 2014, the eruption destroyed the lava dome. The explosion was so strong it sent ashes and stone 500 kilometers away from Mount Kelud.
However the most deadly eruption of Mount Kelud occurred in 1586, it was a huge eruption that created lahars which is a catastrophic mudflow down the slopes of a volcano. The eruption killed an estimated 10,000 people.
08. Mount Unzen
Mount Unzen is located near the city of Shimabara on the island of Kyushu, japan, it consists of multiple overlapping stratovolcanoes. Currently it has two peaks, the Fugen-dake at 1,359 meters and the Heisei-shinzan at 1,486 meters. The most recent eruption occurred in 1991 which killed 43 people, mostly due to the pyroclastic flow.
But the deadliest eruption occurred in 1792 when the southern flank of one of the domes collapsed creating a huge tsunami and landslides. Almost 10,000 people were killed in the tsunami and the other 5,000 were killed by landslides.
07. Mount Vesuvius
This famous stratovolcano is located in Italy, in the Gulf of Naples, it is considered by many as the most dangerous volcanoes on earth. This is because of the fact that the city of Naples and many towns are located on or nearby the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.
The eruption of 79 AD was one of the most deadliest eruptions in the history of Europe, there are eyewitness accounts of this incident recorded by Pliny the Younger, a Roman poet and administrator. Huge pyroclastic flows and falling ash buried entire towns killing more than 16,000 people.
06. Nevado del Ruiz
Known by local pre-Colombian indigenous people as Kumanday the Nevado del Ruiz is located about 129 kilometers west of Bogota, the capital city of Columbia. Geologists started to find sign of eruptions in 1984 and it eventually erupted on November 13, 1985.
The eruption caused extremely hot pyroclastic flows and melted the snow and glaciers, as a result four giant lahars were produced that raced down the volcano and destroyed everything in its way including small towns. Almost 25,000 thousand people were killed in the eruption of 1985.
05. Mount Pelee, Deaths: 30,000
The eruption of Mount Pelee is considered as the worst volcanic disaster in the 20th century as the number of casualties was around 30,000 people. The pyroclastic flow leveled everything in its path including the city of Saint-Pierre, pyroclastic flows were also the major cause of deaths.
The pyroclastic flows were so fatal that only three people survived, one of them was Leon Compere-Leandre who lived at the edge of the city, the other one was Louis-Auguste Cyparis who was in a jail cell and the last survivor was a little girl named Havivra Da Ifrile who escaped by taking a boat into a cave down shore.
04. Krakatoa, Deaths: 36,000
Krakatoa is located in Indonesia and it erupted on August 26, 1883, the next day almost two-thirds of the mountain collapsed after a chain of huge explosions. The explosion of Krakatoa created the loudest sound ever recorded in history. The eruption of Krakatoa killed more than 36,000 people.
Most of the deaths were due to the eruption itself and later by the huge tsunamis it created. It destroyed several towns including Sirik, Serang, Betung and Teluk. Although the official number of casualties is 36,417, there are some experts who say that number is close to 120,000.
03. Mount Tambora, Deaths: 71,000
Mount Tambora is located in Sumbawa, Indonesia and at 4,300 meters high it is the highest peak of the Indonesian archipelago. On April 10, 1815 Mount Tambora erupted, and this eruption is considered as the largest volcanic eruption in the recorded history. It spewed 160 cubic kilometers of lava and gasses into the atmosphere.
According to estimate almost 71,000 people were killed in the eruption and the scattered gases lowered global temperatures and the year 1816 is often called the year without summer.
This volcano is a stratovolcano and it is located in southern Peru, in 1600 this volcano erupted in what is known as the largest volcanic explosion in South America in history. The explosion itself may not have killed a large number of people but its effects on the climate were so harmful that it killed almost 2 million people, mostly in Russia.
In 2008 geologist linked the Russian famine of 1601-1603 with the eruption of Huaynaputina, it was the worst famine in the history of Russia. The year after the eruption was the coldest year in 600 years and it led to the Russian famine which killed almost one-third of its entire population.
Laki is located in Iceland near the canyon of Eldgja and it is a volcanic fissure, it is part of the volcanic system that is centered around the Grimsvotn volcano. Between 1783 and 1784 this system erupted for eight months and spewed 14 cubic kilometers of lava and hydrofluoric acid and sulfur dioxide.
These poisonous compounds killed over 50% of Iceland’s livestock and 25% of its human population. The temperature dropped globally due to the aftermath of the eruption, as the sulfur dioxide spread into the Northern Hemisphere it caused crop failure in Europe and droughts in other parts of the world. It is estimated that almost 6 million people died due to the eruption.