Live-Saving Evacuations In The Philippines – 6/10/1991

History |


Around 30,000 people lived close to Mount Pinatubo – which is 60 miles north of Manila – in the early 1990s. The high population may have resulted from the volcanic mud that provided good agricultural soil. 

Mount Pinatubo is a volcanic mountain that forms a dome made of lava; another name is stratocone. Mount Pinatubo was standing at 5,725 feet high before the 1991 eruptions. On April 2, the first hints of an imminent volcanic eruption became apparent. Later, in mid-May, scientists realized that sulfur dioxide levels were extremely high: 10 times above normal. It became evident that a volcanic eruption was pending. The scientists could not be precise about the specific time of the explosion, but the readings had raised alarms, and emergency preparations were necessary.

Evacuations commenced on the surrounding areas on June 7. Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval, two major United States military facilities in the Philippines would play a significant role in the evacuation process. Clark Airbase was only 15 miles away while Subic Bay Naval was 25 miles away from the volcano.

On June 10, 1991, 14,500 personnel were evacuated at Clark Air Base in anticipation of the eruption. 18,000 persons and their families were moved to Subic Bay Naval Station, and a majority were returned to the United States. Several days later, the explosions occurred as expected and claimed the lives of hundreds of local civilians. The eruptions also sent plenty of ash and sulfur dioxide into the environment. The first major explosion occurred on June 12, throwing ash 62,000 feet into the atmosphere and disintegrating parts of Pinatubo’s dome. By then, the danger radius had been extended to 30 kilometers leading to the total evacuation of 58,000 personnel.

The eruption had continued for the next day before another major blast occurred on the afternoon of June 14. The last explosion took place on June 15 and discharged 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. By this time, the air was already unsafe, and anyone living around the region was at risk. The early warning and evacuations had saved thousands of lives even though 350 persons (approximately) died due to the toxic emissions. 

The Pinatubo eruption was noted as the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The explosion took place on the island of Luzon, just 55 miles northwest of Manila, in the Philippines. Following the eruption, several people lost their lives, and around 100,000 people were left homeless. The eruption climaxed with nine hours of the eruption on June 15. The sulfur dioxide that was released into the air on June 15 had a great effect and resulted in a drop in temperature around the world over the next few years. The events leading to the eruption began in July 1990 after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred some 62 miles northeast of the Pinatubo region.

The effect of the eruption was immense. Apart from the hundreds who lost their lives, property totaling half a billion was destroyed. The economy of the region was also disrupted.

Mt. Pinatubo lost almost 1000 feet because of the eruption. Today, the mountain stands at 4,800 feet. 

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