The countries with the highest volcanic risk are those which contain explosive volcanoes, such as Italy, Indonesia, New Zealand, New guinea, the Philippines, Japan, Russia, he U.S., Mexico, and the countries of Central America. Some of these countries cannot afford to develop effective risk mitigation programs and must look upon industrialized nations for concrete examples of effective risk reduction. The 1902 eruption of Mont Pele’e which destroyed the town of Saint Pierre occurred because the governor, fearing the lose of the election, did not issue and evacuation on time in spite of the earthquakes which shook the region for several weeks. The town of Armero situated in a valley of Nevado Del Ruiz Volcano was built on a mudflow but the town officials did not take any coordinated efforts to evacuate the population from the valleys below the mountain in spite of the preliminary signs of an eruption. In 1985, the melted snow produced from this activity buried the city of Armero in a mudflow and 25,000 people were killed. The eruption of Mt. Helens in the U.S. in 1980 could have been an extremely costly volcano, but because of precautions made before hand all the roads leading into the national park had been closed. What was learned from the past saved lives in 1980 and continues through today with the help of forecasting and technology.

Using the eruption of Mt. Helens in 1980, a hazard analysis produces that the magnitude was critical, this explosion ripped half the volcano completely off and leveled trees for miles in all directions. However its frequency is very limited and there has not been any major eruption there since. There is no seasonal pattern to eruption and the duration was instantaneous with effects still seen around the volcano. The speed on onset was seven to ten days with prior notice being given in time to close off access to the area.

Still there was no way to know when the eruption would happen only that is was highly likely to happen in the near future. Along with eruptions there are other dangers than the lave flow, poison gases being released into the surrounding areas, tons of ash being blown into the atmosphere smothering the sun’s light and choking victims, and mud slides caused by melting snow which is common on top of these large volcanoes.

A vulnerability analysis of the area reveals that there was not a large population around Mt. Helens, so not many people were affected. However the property impact was devastating, with whole forests leveled and covered in feet of ash. Many of the local lakes and streams were frozen over because it was winter so many of the aquatic life survived, but the forest is still trying to retake the land it once thrived on. There was little cost of recovery due to the remoteness of the volcano and the largest impact was on the tourism industry in that area. There was no impact to the infrastructure or services in the area and victim displacement was limited to the vacationers in the national park when it was closed. There was no measurable morbidity or mortality to measure.

Given our inability to predict on time the eruptions of explosive volcanoes such as Vesuvius, and evacuate on short notice thousands of people, socio-economic and political consequences cause by an evacuation to faraway places, large costs involved in false alarms, and possible destruction of the culture and speculation caused by the evacuation, it should be clear that it is necessary to abandon the management of a catastrophe and substitute this with a plan for the prevention of a catastrophe and development of the area. Volcanic risk in densely populated areas may be reduces only if governmental and non-governmental organizations collaborate with the population at risk.

Immediately following a volcanic disaster in a populated area, there will be thousands and thousands of people who will be homeless and have nothing left. Their needs and the needs to get the effected area stabilized is the most important. Obviously the area will not be habitable for many yeas, so rebuilding is not an option. The misplaced population will need shelter, food, water and medical attention is needed. Organizations will need supplies to disseminate among the people