“I had seen people who had lost everything and everyone they loved to war, famine, and natural disasters.”

–Chelsea Clinton – 2010

One of the nature’s worst disasters is volcanic eruptions. Back in time, people could not sense when the eruption was about to occur and this has resulted in some massive eradication of entire civilisations. With time, scientists have come up with techniques to measure seismic activities like magnitude of tremors that occurred before an eruption; and the swelling of the nearby ground. However, in 1985, scientists in Colombia failed to predict a huge eruption from the volcano, Nevado del Ruiz, situated to the West of the capital city of Bogota. The volcano has been active for about two million years and has seen three major eruptive periods. Ash ejections had begun by September along with the deposit of Sulphur on the summit of the volcano that was detected by geologists. Phreatic eruptions were noticed as the magma in the volcano came into contact with earth’s water and let out an explosion of steam. Gradually, the magma reached the surface of the volcano releasing bulk of gases into the atmosphere. Then on November 13, Colombia was struck with its worst natural disaster. Lahars, the liquid formed of a combination of water, ice, pumice, clay and other rocks, travelled down the sides of the volcano from a height of 17,500 feet and into the nearby rivers and valleys. One of the lahars virtually erased the small town of Armero situated in the Lagunilla River valley. It killed around 25000 people and was recorded as the deadliest lahar in history. The incident came to be known as the Armero tragedy and it was the second-deadliest volcanic disaster in the 20th century, being surpassed only by the 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée. It is also the fourth-deadliest volcanic eruption in recorded history. At present, up to 500,000 people reside in the towns near the volcano and are at a risk of future eruptions. Some areas closest to the volcano have been evacuated and geologists are constantly keeping a track of the changes in earth’s surface and are monitoring the volcano through Deep Earth Carbon Degassing Project.