Even though it is located only 310 miles (500 km) from the equator, the volcano’s summit is covered with snow.
Just after 2100 a more serious eruption began causing the mountain’s glaciers to melt, sending four enormous lahars (volcanically induced mudslides, landslides, and debris flows) down its slopes at 50 kilometres per hour (30 miles per hour). The lahars picked up speed in gullies and coursed into the six major rivers at the base of the volcano.
Armero, which lay in a valley below the 16,200-foot high (4,937m) volcano, was virtually destroyed – buried by mud and rubble swept down on to it, killing more than 20,000 of its almost 29,000 inhabitants.
The relief efforts were hampered by fallen bridges and impassable roads and by the composition of the mud, which made it nearly impossible to move through without becoming stuck. By the time relief workers reached Armero twelve hours after the eruption, many of the victims with serious injuries were dead. The relief workers were horrified by the landscape of fallen trees, disfigured human bodies, and piles of debris from entire houses. This was the second-deadliest volcanic disaster of the 20th century, surpassed only by the 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée, and is the fourth-deadliest volcanic event recorded since 1500 AD.
Michael White Team Leader
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