The Worst Volcanic Eruptions In History

Lava flow from a volcanic eruption.
Lava flow from a volcanic eruption.

Volcanoes Don’t Come Cheap

Volcanoes can prove disastrous for the administrations, private companies, and local residents of the areas in which they occur, considering the far-reaching costs span of volcanic damages. With hundreds and thousands of people becoming jobless, countless suffering from health problems, and the volcanic ash cleanup that is required afterwards, volcanoes are perhaps some of the costliest natural disasters known to mankind. EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database, recently released statistics pertaining to the economic losses caused by major volcanic eruptions from 1900 to 2015. The cost of each major volcanic eruption in the database is indicated in millions of US dollars, and these financial damages are nothing short of breathtaking.

The Costliest Volcanoes on Record

According to the information provided by EM-DAT, the most expensive volcano to have ever erupted was one occurring on November 13th, 1985 in Colombia. It is believed to have caused an economic loss of around $1 Billion USD. The eruption of this volcano was rather small, but it caused a gigantic flow of mud, lava, and debris nonetheless. The fiery runoff literally buried the entire town of Armero, and killed 23,000 of its 29,000 inhabitants. Several evacuation attempts were made on the day of the eruption, but communication became restricted due to a severe storm. Many victims had continued to stay within their homes, thinking that the eruption had ended, when in fact the noise from the storm had just muffled out the sounds from the volcanic eruption.

The second costliest volcanic eruption since 1900 took place in the US on May 18th, 1980. The estimated cost of this volcano was $860 million USD. Next in line was a volcanic eruption that occurred in the Philippines on the 9th of June in 1991, which caused losses of around $211 million USD. Meanwhile, volcanic eruptions taking place in Indonesia on April 5th, 1982 and in Ecuador on the 14th of August, 2006, inflicted $160 million and $150 million of damages in US dollars each, respectively.

Other Expensive Volcanic Eruptions

Three other very expensive volcanic eruptions made the top of our list compiled by EM-DAT statistic. One of these occurred in Papua New Guinea on September 19th, 1994. It is believed that the eruption caused an economic loss of about $110 million USD. An eruption that occurred on the 4th of June, 2011 in Argentina is also known to have cost around $104 million, and one that erupted in Indonesia on February 14th, 2014 caused a loss of $103 million.

Learning from the Past

While the loss of lives from volcanic eruptions are the scariest threats, the economic damages they can potentially cause are no laughing matter either. As awareness of volcanic dangers have increased in vulnerable areas and action plans put into place, hopefully volcanic-related financial damages can be better mitigated in the future.

The Costliest Volcanic Eruptions In History

RankIncidentCost (Millions of USD)
1Volcanic eruption in Colombia, (November 13, 1985)$1,000
2Volcanic eruption in the U.S. (May 18, 1980)$860
3Volcanic eruption in the Philippines (June 9, 1991)$211
4Volcano eruption in Indonesia (April 5, 1982)$160
5Volcano eruption in Ecuador (August 14, 2006)$150
6Volcano eruption in Indonesia (September 9, 1983)$150
7Volcano eruption in Mexico (March 28, 1982)$117
8Volcanic eruption in Papua New Guinea (September 19, 1994)$110
9Volcanic eruption in Argentina (June 04, 2011)$104
10Volcano eruption in Indonesia (February 14, 2014)$103

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