Within weeks of each other, stories of two destructive volcanoes have hit the news.
On April 30, the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii began spewing lava. The lava has continued flowing through the area ever since then. According to some reports, the volcano destroyed somewhere around 120 properties in that time span. Meanwhile, a second volcano erupted this Sunday, June 3, in Guatemala. While the death toll in Hawaii has remained at zero despite the long duration of the eruption, 70 have already died from the Fuego volcano in Guatemala.
The difference in the death tolls boils down to the two different types of eruptions and the locations of the volcanoes. According to CNN, Kilauea’s eruption consists mostly of lava. Although highly destructive, lava moves relatively slowly and is easier for humans to evade. Plus, located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kilauea isn’t that close to residential areas. So, even though the lava has reached homes by now, residents have had enough time to evacuate.
Things worked differently this week in Guatemala. Not only does Fuego butt up against a few towns and villages, but its “pyroclastic flow” also moves a lot faster than lava. CNN says that the lava “creeps” at “maybe hundreds of meters per hour” while the “devastating pyroclastic flow” can reach speeds of “hundreds of kilometers per hour.” Often, no person or car is fast enough to outstrip these flows of “ash, rock and volcanic gases.”
History’s most well-known pyroclastic flow occurred in AD 79, when Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the two Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. As Express recounts, the ash from Vesuvius buried most of the towns’ residents before they could escape. To this day, tourists can view casts of the people whose bodies were engulfed by the volcanic flow.
Something very similar is happening this week in Guatemala—with similar effects. According to CBC, the bodies uncovered by emergency workers “were so thickly coated with ash that they looked like statues.” The debris damaged many people so severely that, according to one forensic scientist, the bodies have lost their features and fingerprints. As of Tuesday, authorities have only been able to identify around 17 of the 70 killed.
Leah Hickman is a 2017 graduate of Hillsdale College’s English program. She freelances for BreakPoint.org and has written pieces for multiple Hillsdale College campus publications as well as for ChristianAnswers.net/Spotlight and the Discover Laura Blog. Read more by Leah at aworldofgrasspeople.blogspot.com.
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Publication date: June 6, 2018