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Interview with a Volcanologist: Prof. Stephen Sparks
Interview with a Volcanologist: Rosie Smith


One Year After
MANILA, PHILIPPINES. June 15, 1992. A year ago today, Mount Pinatubo blew its stack, and the island of Luzon — and the entire region — is still suffering from the after-effects.

Ironically, some of the greatest destruction to the landscape has come after the explosion, in the form of lahars. Heavy rains triggered mudflows down the mountainsides. At times the lahars resemble rivers of wet concrete. They have buried entire villages and have completely disrupted the lives of virtually everyone who lives in central Luzon. Nobody seems to know where or when one of these lahars will strike. Many people who evacuated the lowland regions have returned home, but there is still the threat of lahars after heavy rains.

Some 20,000 indigenous Aetas, who lived on the slopes of the volcano, have been displaced, and it remains unknown when, or even if, they will be able to go home. Over 250,000 acres of agricultural land was devastated by the eruption, effectively robbing more than 650,000 people of their livelihood. Some of those who evacuated the lowland regions have returned home, but they are in constant fear of lahars oozing down the mountain in the dead of night. Rice and sugar are in short supply.

At one point the ash cloud produced by the explosion measured hundreds of miles across! Meteorologists reported that ash fell as far away as the Indian Ocean, and satellites have been tracking the cloud as it circumnavigates the globe. Although commercial aircraft are warned of the clouds and have tried to avoid them, aircraft damage caused by ash is estimated at $100 million. The ash also caused heavy damage to the military structures at Subic Bay Naval Station and Clark Air Force Base. Clark is located a scant 10 miles east of the mountain. Both the base and the station were scheduled to close this year, but Clark was so badly damaged that it never reopened after the eruption.

Periodically, islanders have had to witness more pyrotechnical displays spewing out of the volcano. Fortunately, these have been weaker.

Review Questions

1. One year later, how has the eruption of Mount Pinatubo’s affected the lithosphere?

2. What effects has the volcanic eruption had on the economy of Luzon?

3. You are a villager living on the island of Lazar one year after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. What might you be afraid of?

 


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