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Village of Bacolor under a mud

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In 1991 the volcano of Pinatubo, on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, began to erupt after nearly six centuries of dormancy, projecting a 66-million-cubic-foot (18-million-cubic-meter) cloud of sulfurous gas and ash to a height of 115,000 feet (35,000 m) and destroying all life within a radius of 9 miles (14 km). In the days that followed, torrential rains from a hurricane mixed with ashes scattered over several thousand kilometers, causing devastating mudflows, which engulfed whole villages. Before the cataclysmic eruption on June 15, 1991, the evacuation of 60,000 people limited casualties to 875 dead and 1 million injured. Close to 600 million inhabitants of our planet live under the threat of volcanoes, but despite their force, volcanic eruptions are not the deadliest threat to humans. In the past fifteen years, 560,000 persons perished from major natural catastrophes (120,000 in 1998 and 1999 alone); 15 percent of the deaths were due to storms, 30 percent to earthquakes, and half to floods—a natural phenomenon that has become even more devastating as a result of human intervention in the environment.


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