World's worst volcanic eruptions
Learn about the ten costliest volcanic eruptions in history.
April 23, 2010
Sidoarjo Mud Volcano (Lusi), Indonesia (1/10)
Eruption: May 2006 - ongoing
Estimated loss: 3 billion U.S. Dollar
The costliest volcanic eruption in history is man-made! During exploration drilling for gas, an explosion created a mud volcano next to the borehole.
Ever since, about 88,000 cubic feet of toxic mud are spewed out daily. That's enough to fill a dozen Olympic-size swimming pools. The mud blocked the highway, buried farms and businesses in an area the size of London. 10,000 people were left homeless, some 50,000 suffered health problems.
Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland (2/10)
Eruption: April 2010
Estimated loss: 1.7 billion U.S. Dollar
At first, the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull didn't seem such a big deal. But a mix of bad luck and poor risk management turned it into one of the costliest eruptions in history.
Ashes from the volcano quickly spread eastwards disrupting air traffic across Europe. The International Air Transport Association estimates that airlines alone lost more than 1.7 billion dollars.
Mount Unzen, Kyushu, Japan (3/10)
Eruption: June 1991
Estimated loss: 1.5 billion U.S. Dollar
After a first, violent outbreak in 1972, the volcano remained silent until earthquakes began in November 1989. The threat of eruption prompted authorities to evacuate about 12,000 residents. In June 1993 the volcano erupted again and claimed the lives of 43 scientists, journalists, and volcanologists.
Mount St. Helens, USA (4/10)
Eruption: May 1980
Estimated loss: 860 million U.S. Dollar
A two-month series of earthquakes weakened the north slope of the Mount St. Helens in Washington State. Another earthquake on May 18, 1980 caused the entire north face to slide away.
A hot mix of lava and rock darted towards the Spirit Lake. The ash cloud rose 80,000 feet reaching eleven states. Hundreds of square miles were reduced to wasteland, 57 people and thousands of animals were killed.
Pinatubo, Philippines (5/10)
Eruption: June - September 1991
Estimated loss: 860 million U.S. Dollar
The Pinatubo eruption in 1991 was the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The outbreak was triggered by an earthquake in July 1990.
Mount Pinatubo’s eruption plume reached 21 miles high in the atmosphere. After one year the cloud covered the entire planet and is believed to have triggered the 1993 drought in Africa's Sahel region. Global temperatures were reduced 0.5 degrees Celsius in the two following years.
Soufrière Hills, Montserrat (6/10)
Eruption: since 1995
Estimated loss: 330 million U.S. Dollar
After years of inactivity, the volcano erupted in 1995 and hasn't stopped ever since. The eruptions have rendered more than half of the island and the capital uninhabitable.
About two thirds of the population left the island, when word got around that the entire island might explode. The most devastating eruption so far occurred in 2008, without any precursory events or hints.
Tavuvur and Vulcan, Papua New Guinea (7/10)
Eruption: September 1994
Estimated loss: 300 million U.S. Dollar
The city of Rabaul is continuously threatened by volcanic activity because it is built on a flooded caldera close to the twin volcanoes Tavuvur and Vulcan.
In 1994, eruptions began after less than one day of seismic warnings. A good disaster response plan left the town ready for quick evacuation. The eruption destroyed the airport and covered most of the town with ash. Authorities decided to relocate the provincial capital to Kokopo. Nonetheless, Rabaul is slowly rebuilt in the danger zone.
Navado del Ruiz, Colombia (8/10)
Eruption: November 1985
Estimated loss: 230 million U.S. Dollar
Home of various active volcanoes of the Andean Volcanic Belt, Columbia is frequently haunted by eruptions. The 2008 eruption of the Navado del Huila was the last event.
In November 1985, the Navado del Ruiz broke out and a rather small eruption caused a gigantic flow of lava, mud, and debris that buried the town of Armero and caused and estimated 23,000 deaths.
Eldfell, Iceland (9/10)
Eruption: January - February 1973
Estimated loss: 200 million U.S. Dollar
The Eldfell eruption began without warning, just outside the town of Heimaey, in January 1973. It nearly led to the permanent evacuation of the entire Heimaey island. Volcanic ash covered most of the territory and a lava flow threatened to destroy the harbor, the island’s main income source. The lava flow was cooled by pumping sea water onto it. When the eruption ended, the island had grown by about 10 percent.
(Source: U.S. Geological Survey)
Gamalama, Indonesia (10/10)
Eruption: September 1983
Estimated loss: 150 million U.S. Dollar
After the legendary eruption of the Krakatoa in 1883, Indonesia became a synonym for volcanic activity. The outbreak was equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT and was heard as far away as Perth in Western Australia.
However, in 1983, another major eruption occurred at Mount Gamalama. The volcano caused a mile-high eruption column whose ash nearly destroyed an airport. Over 5000 people had to be evacuated.