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1985: Colombia PDF Print E-mail


RUIZ Volcano had not erupted in over a century when the first volcanic earthquakes were recorded in late 1984. Colombian and international scientists monitored the volcano for over a year, recognized the possibility that devastating lahars (volcanic mudflows) would be generated if an eruption occurred, and published an accurate hazards map that clearly showed vulnerable areas. Little was done to warn the threatened populations though, and when the expected eruption finally took place on the evening of November 13, no believable evacuation orders were given. Over 25,000 people were needlessly killed that night on the flanks of Ruiz, and the scenes of death and devastation I witnessed later that month will never be erased from my memory. This eruption had major impact on my conscience, and I realized the obligation of volcanologists to do more than "good science" -- we have moral obligations to make sure that public officials fully understand and act on our warnings and that they reach the threatened people in understandable format.

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