OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Deadliest Eruption

 

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
92,000 Tambora, Indonesia 1815 Starvation
36,417 Krakatau, Indonesia 1883 Tsunami
29,025 Mt. Pelee, Martinique 1902 Ash flows
25,000 Ruiz, Colombia 1985 Mudflows
14,300 Unzen, Japan 1792 Volcano collapse, tsunami
9,350 Laki, Iceland 1783 Starvation
5,110 Kelut, Indonesia 1919 Mudflows
4,011 Galunggung, Indonesia 1882 Mudflows
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
1,475 Oshima, Japan 1741 Tsunami
1,377 Asama, Japan 1783 Ash flows, mudflows
1,335 Taal, Philippines 1911 Ash flows
1,200 Mayon, Philippines 1814 Mudflows
1,184 Agung, Indonesia 1963 Ash flows
1,000 Cotopaxi, Ecuador 1877 Mudflows
800 Pinatubo, Philippines 1991 Roof collapses and disease
700 Komagatake, Japan 1640 Tsunami
700 Ruiz, Colombia 1845 Mudflows
500 Hibok-Hibok, Philippines 1951

Ash flows

 


 

Deaths by Regions, 1600-1982

 

 

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.