June 19, 2012 – Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz Volcano Has a Deadly Past:
Plumes of smoke and ash are rising from Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz volcano. People living on its slopes said they heard “strong, strange noises” coming from the summit of the 5,346 meter (17,535 feet) high mountain on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Officials said they would extend the orange alert, the second highest, for areas near the summit, which they had first declared almost three weeks ago. More than 25,000 people died in a mudslide (Lahars) caused by Nevado del Ruiz in its last eruption in 1985. Officials have distributed 30,000 face masks to residents living in areas affected by ash from the volcano. The airport in the nearby town of Manizales, in central Colombia, has been closed since the end of May, and will remain so until the volcano ceases to emit ash, officials said. The Volcanic Observatory in Manizales said the plume of ash and gas had risen to a height of 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) on Sunday. Scientists at the observatory warned there was a risk of an eruption “within days or weeks.”
After the November 13, 1985 calamity; officials from the government of Colombia and reporters from newspaper, radio, and television arrived in the morning. Rescue crews were sent to the scene but were unable to reach those trapped in mudflows up to 40 meters (131 feet) thick. Twenty three thousand people died that night in Armero, and in villages nearby. Three quarters of the people living in the Armero were swept away or drowned in the few minutes it took for the swiftly moving mud to cover the town.
Lahars are debris flows and/or mud flows produced by loose soil and rock flowing down the sides of a volcano. The name comes from the Indonesian term where lahars are common volcanic hazards. Pictured below, Nevado del Ruiz and the Lahars flow scars.
The November 13, 1985 eruption took place during night. Although Armero was 74 kms (46 miles) from the crater of Nevado del Ruiz, it took the lahar only two and a half hours to reach the village. A warning did not reach the people in time. The tremendous death toll inspired a new respect for volcanic sites around the world where fire and ice meet in a deadly combination. (Credits: NOAA National Geophysical Data Center and the USGS).
The Master of Disaster