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Colombia Volcano Eruption Seen as Worst Such Disaster in 80 Years

From Reuters

The eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano in central Colombia may be the worst such disaster in more than 80 years, a geological expert said here Thursday.

Up to 20,000 people were feared dead in Colombia. If this death toll is confirmed, the eruption of Nevado del Ruiz was the worst volcanic disaster in South American history, Ian Merter of London’s Geological Museum said.

It would be the worst in the world since 1902 when Mt. Pelee erupted on the Caribbean island of Martinique, killing 29,000 people as it engulfed the town of Saint-Pierre in lava.

The first eyewitness account of a volcanic eruption was written by Pliny the Younger in two letters after Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, burying Pompeii and two other cities in southern Italy. The death toll is not known.

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Worst Was Krakatoa

The worst volcanic explosion in modern times was the 1883 eruption of the Pacific island volcano of Krakatoa, in Indonesia, which released energy equivalent to nearly 30 hydrogen bombs.

The Krakatoa eruption, heard nearly 3,000 miles away, unleashed tidal waves that engulfed coast regions of Java and Sumatra, killing 36,380 people. It threw rocks 34 miles.

The worst eruption in terms of matter discharged occurred in Indonesia in 1815 when the Tambora volcano spewed out a rain of rock and ash that killed 12,000 people. The devastation caused a famine in which 80,000 more people died.

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