Natural and Man-Made Disasters
What were the deadliest volcanic eruptions in history?
The April 5, 1815, eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia was the deadliest yet, killing some 92,000 people. Another Indonesian eruption later in the nineteenth century—this time at Karkatoa—claimed 36,417 lives in late August 1883.
On the French island of Martinique in the West Indies, Mount Pelee erupted on August 30, 1902, and more than 29,000 people perished. A relatively recent and deadly eruption was that on November 13, 1985, at Nevada del Ruiz, Columbia; it claimed 23,000 lives.
Iceland’s Skaptar volcano erupted in 1783. While the number of lives lost may not qualify it for inclusion on a short list of “deadliest” volcanoes, the human toll was great indeed: 20 percent of the country’s population died.
Because of population growth, today more people live closer to volcanoes—both active and inactive. As a result, the number of volcano-related deaths has increased: Between the years 1600 and 1900, the estimated average death toll per year due to volcanoes was 315. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, an average of 845 people have died each year because of volcanic eruptions.