Volcanic Disaster


A volcanic disaster refers to a disaster that emanates from lava flows, pyroclastic flows, and volcanic mudflows.  The disasters could cover extensive areas hence causing excessive damage to both property and lives. A volcanic disaster is a natural occurrence and no one has the capacity to mitigate. Thus, the entire world has been struggling to save people by evacuating them from risky areas. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo was one of the worst the world has ever experienced. It discharged millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, which resulted into a decrease in global temperature over the next few years. The mountain is an active strato-volcano situated along the Luzon arc and had been dominant for a long time. The mountain was covered with a dense forest hence there were no signs of a quicker eruption until an analysis was conducted and the prospects of eruption established. Many lives were saved through the efforts to evacuate individuals and move them to safer places. The effects of Mt. Pinatubo eruption were felt all over the world because it is one of intense negative impacts that accompanied it.

This essay explicates Mt. Pinatubo eruption and other issues relating to the eruption.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Response Efforts

Before the eruption, seismic experts in the Philippines did predict a volcanic disaster. According to Kerr (1991), thousands of Aeta Highlanders, an indigenous community that had lived on its slopes, were the first to be evacuated. They were followed by service men from American Clark Air Base together with their families. However, there were no initial predictions of the looming tropical storms. The volcanic eruption interacted with Storm Sunya and caused havoc that was not anticipated by most individuals. The whole island was washed with tetra type rainfall, which was caused by the mixture of rainfall and volcanic ash. It is reported that most people living around the mountain lost their lives due to the collapse of roofs facilitated of the immense volcanic ash. This disaster would have been averted if experts had predicted such undesirable outcomes. According to Gaillard (2007), the whole island should have been evacuated instead of just those close to the mountain. Seismic experts did not foresee the possible interaction between a volcanic storm and volcanic ash; instead, they focused on the possibility of volcanic eruption. The authorities failed to see the risk in people fleeing to lowland areas. The eruption caused streaming mudflows, which flowed towards the lowlands wiping out people, animals, property and vegetation.

On the other hand, Kerr (1991) reports that the international community came in with additional support efforts. USAID gave out plastic material for building temporary houses for the displaced and donated funds to aid in the rehabilitation of projects. However, the funds and aid were mismanaged as those in the refugee camps continued suffering and living in poor conditions. The funds were not enough to cater for all the needs that the displaced individuals needed. In case the government could have solicited for additional funds, more funds would have gone a long way to alleviate human suffering in the refugee camps and boost the recovery process.

Social Management Techniques for Responding to Volcanic Disasters

Risk Identification and Analysis

According to Paton (2007), volcanic disaster management should involve the communities surrounding volcanic areas, as well as, young professionals who should focus on reducing disaster risk in the respective areas. All effective techniques aimed at managing disaster should start with risk identification and analysis; an analysis of the volcanic nature and possible risk that characterizes the location with volcanic activities. Paton (2007) points out that, it should have details of the frequency, magnitude and harshness of past volcanic activities, data on the exposure of the population to such activities, as well as identification of the capacity of the local population and resources to endure shock and stress from the volcanic eruption. According to Cashman & Cronin (2008), the whole process of risk identification should include an analysis of the main causes of why the above-mentioned elements are not safe.

According to Gaillard (2007), risk management an essential step, because it gives prior information to the authorities on the areas to prioritize when volcanic activities start. It also helps in looking for ways, to reduce the impacts of the volcano eruption. Risk assessment approximates the measurement of actual benefits that come along with disaster management and reduction. Notably, social management techniques have to reduce risk to the lowest levels effectively. In preparing for disaster such as volcanic eruptions, the concerned public should beware of the looming disaster. Prior to that, authorities should ensure that the information gathered, is sufficient and inclusive of every necessary detail. The information gathered will have an evaluation of the potential risks, without forgetting risks of an interaction between a storm and volcanic eruption.

They should also strive to exhaust all possible means of safeguarding the people from danger. According to Cashman & Cronin (2008), it is better to evacuate every person near a certain radius and those in lowlands, that is, channeling many resources towards evacuating people than waiting for them to die. 

Risk Reduction

These measures are aimed at preventing and limiting the destruction caused by volcanic activities, hence reduce the potential impact. This step focuses on the reduction of vulnerability, which includes a number of economic, environmental, social, and technical issues. According to Paton (2007), it includes safe designed buildings that would shield volcanic ash, putting in place early warning systems, regulating how people use land, and sensitizing the population that is facing the risk of volcanic disaster. If there is a disaster such as volcanic eruptions, everything possible should be done to save lives, animals, crop and property. Strong buildings should be built that would prevent ash from falling on people.  

Protective Response

This is the real action plan and involves the process of decision-making. It ranges from the provision of transport to protection of property. Care facilities can be set up to ensure that the affected are all served amicably. In response efforts, it is advisable for authorities to ensure that transport is available to everyone in due time. Gaillard (2007) agrees that everyone should be forced to leave since it is better saving lives than regret later. Information hotlines should be placed on every corner to aid the masses as well as call on the Red Cross to coordinate a number of other activities such as caring for the injured or sick. Moreover care facilities should also be erected that would mobilize everyone to evacuate. Notably, the evacuation process would start as early as possible.


A volcanic eruption results in a disaster that could have adverse effects on both individuals and property. It can be disastrous as it can trigger landslides, flash floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Therefore, it would be prudent enough to evacuate people from risky areas in cases of such disasters.  Notably, scientists and seismic experts monitor volcanoes found in the Cascade Range and those in Hawaii and Alaska to aid in predicting volcanic related future events. Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption, viewed as the second largest to occur in the 20th century, should not have come as a surprise eventually. Much was done, but the aftermath was disastrous as many lives were lost during the eruption. In addition, large populations were left homeless due to massive displacements caused by the eruption. There was crop failure and infrastructure damage. Millions of tons of sulfur dioxide were discharged into the atmosphere, which resulted into a decrease in temperature globally over some years that followed. The cooling effects were greater than the El Nino’s happening at the time as incredible sunrises and sunsets were witnessed around the world. Experts should always conduct tests to determine the looming risks relating to eruptions in order to enable relevant authorities to take the required measures. This would save more lives and property.

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