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The list below contains eruptions with more than 500 known human fatalities.
These are the most deadly eruptions known. Other eruptions have been as big or bigger than these, but no one lived nearby to be threatened (for example the Valley of 10,000 Smokes eruption in Alaska in 1912). The Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980 in Washington state was a far less dangerous eruption than these, only 61 humans died, although thousands of deer and other animals perished. The ancient eruption at Santorini Island in the Mediterranean Sea in about 1650 BC certainly killed thousands of people (and was the source of the Atlantis legend), but there are no real estimates of the number of deaths. Remember that all of the numbers of deaths listed here are best guesses; various books give different numbers. This list is based on data in Volcanic Hazards: A Sourcebook on the Effects of Eruptions by Russell J. Blong (Academic Press, 1984).
|Deaths||Volcano||When||Major Cause of Death|
|29,025||Mt. Pelee, Martinique||1902||Ash flows|
|14,300||Unzen, Japan||1792||Volcano collapse, tsunami|
|3,500||Vesuvius, Italy||1631||Mudflows, lava flows|
|3,360||Vesuvius, Italy||79||Ash flows and falls|
|2,957||Papandayan, Indonesia||1772||Ash flows|
|2,942||Lamington, Papua N.G.||1951||Ash flows|
|2,000||El Chichon, Mexico||1982||Ash flows|
|1,680||Soufriere, St Vincent||1902||Ash flows|
|1,377||Asama, Japan||1783||Ash flows, mudflows|
|1,335||Taal, Philippines||1911||Ash flows|
|1,184||Agung, Indonesia||1963||Ash flows|
|800||Pinatubo, Philippines||1991||Roof collapses and disease|
This bar graph shows the number of deaths in each volcanic region from 1600 to 1982. The total number of deaths was 238,867.
Based on Table 3.1 of Blong, R.J., 1984, Volcanic Hazards: A Sourcebook on the Effects of Eruptions: Orlando, Florida, Academic Press, 424 p.