Imagine you are sound asleep in your home when an unexpected mudflow rushes through your town. An evacuation was called off earlier and you think you are safe. This is what happened to the people that lived in Armero, Colombia the night the Nevado del Ruiz erupted. The eruption caused a colossal mudflow that destroyed many people's lives and homes, leaving people around the world heartbroken.
The Nevado del Ruiz erupted in Armero, Colombia that generated a massive mudflow to wipeout the entire town. On the afternoon of November 13, 1985 the Nevado del Ruiz erupted. Molten rock began to erupt from the crater and the snow and ice started to melt with ash showering down. The eruption was somewhat small, but it caused a massive lahar, or mudflow. Most citizens were unaware of the eruption. Within about 51 weeks before, there were minor earthquakes and steam explosions from the volcano. No warning was given prior to the eruption. An evacuation was given about the mudflow, but was soon dismissed. The town of Armero was asleep when the lahar hit, it killed over 23,000 people. Mud and debris went down the slope at 30 mph. Additionally, it went down the Azufrado and Lagunilla river channels. In the end, Armero was buried by mud and rubble.
What causes an eruption?
When a volcano erupts, it can cause enormous problems even if it may be undersized. First the volcano makes magma from the high temperatures and melted rock. Then, it forms at the bottom and makes its way up the main vent. When the magma is halfway up, it turns into lava. The lava keeps going up and gets hotter and hotter. When the volcano is prepared to erupt, snow and ice melts, and sometimes runs downhill with ash and other debris which is a lahar, or mudflow. It is very challenging to determine exactly when a volcanic eruption will happen, but there are ways to predict it. For example, seismicity is movement of magma, it causes small earthquakes and vibrations. That is what happened in Armero in the 51 weeks before the eruption. When magma gathers, it can cause swelling of the volcanoes’ slopes. There are some tools that are used to predict if an eruption will come soon, such as seismographs, tiltmeters and geometers, and correlation spectrometers (COSPECS). These tools can help find small earthquakes, swelling of the volcano, and sulfur dioxide. Volcanoes can erupt at any time and can cause big problems. There are ways to predict when it occurs but it might not always be accurate.
A Town Never Rebuilt
After the Nevado del Ruiz disaster, the Colombian government realized that the volcano could be threatening to the people around it and they started to keep a close eye on it. Many people were upset at the government because they were not clear on any official evacuation or warning. About 25,000 people in Armero and Chinchina died. 4,500 people were injured and 8,000 were made homeless. The United Nations helped soon afterwards. Rescue workers had to wait until it was light outside to attempt to find survivors stuck in the thick, sticky mud. The people of Armero went to find their belongings and missing friends and family members. Less than one-tenth of Armero’s population survived; 1,000 people. Most of the survivors went to stay with friends and family. Most of these deaths could have been avoided, but were caused by poor planning, human error, and lack of experience. The government and local authorities didn’t believe that Armero was at risk. In fact, $1 billion of the Colombian Gross National Product was used for the recovery. As a result, Armero was never rebuilt; it remains under all of the solidified mud. The area was declared a cemetery since thousands of people’s bodies are buried under the mud. The Nevado del Ruiz eruption in 1985 made the government cautious about the volcano.
The 1985 Nevado del Ruiz eruption and mudflow left many people devastated and heartbroken. It wiped out the whole town; killing many people and destroying homes. Armero was never rebuilt because so many people were buried under all of the mud and they did not want to risk having another eruption destroy the town again.