Which volcano has killed the most people?

Tambora Volcano

Tambora Volcano, Image Courtesy of NASA.

The eruption of Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 killed the most people.  It was a huge eruption that sent ash into the stratosphere that then spread around the world.  World climate was noticeably cooler the following year, and in places it was called “the year without a summer.”

Enormous volumes of pyroclastic flow followed by caldera collapse created an up to 10m wall of water that devastated the Indonesian shoreline.   As many as 10,000 deaths are attributed to the resulting tsunami.   Thousands more died due to the destruction of crops and livestock, disease, contamination of water, etc., tens of thousands more died in the years that followed.  Overall as many as 92,000 deaths were attributed to this eruption.

Below is a chart of all eruptions with more than 500 known fatalities:

Deaths Attributed



Major Cause of Death

92,000 Tambora, Indonesia 1815 Starvation (and Tsunami)
36,417 Krakatau, Indonesia 1883 Tsunami
29,025 Mt. Pelee, Martinique 1902 Ash flows
25,000 Ruiz, Colombia 1985 Mudflows
14,300 Unzen, Japan 1792 Tsunami
9,350 Laki, Iceland 1783 Starvation
5,110 Kelut, Indonesia 1919 Mudflows
4,011 Galunggung, Indonesia 1882 Mudflows
3,500 Vesuvius, Italy 1631 Mud & lava flows
3,360 Vesuvius, Italy 79 Ash flows
2,957 Papandayan, Indonesia 1772 Ash flows
2,942 Lamington, Papua N.G. 1951 Ash flows
2,000 El Chichon, Mexico 1982 Ash flows
1,680 Soufriere, St Vincent 1902 Ash flows
1,475 Oshima, Japan 1741 Tsunami
1,377 Asama, Japan 1783 Ash flows, mudflows
1,335 Taal, Philippines 1911 Ash flows
1,200 Mayon, Philippines 1814 Mudflows
1,184 Agung, Indonesia 1963 Ash flows
1,000 Cotopaxi, Ecuador 1877 Mudflows
800 Pinatubo, Philippines 1991 Roof collapses and disease
700 Komagatake, Japan 1640 Tsunami
700 Ruiz, Colombia 1845 Mudflows
500 Hibok-Hibok, Philippines 1951 Ash flows

(based on data in Volcanic Hazards: A Sourcebook on the Effects of Eruptions by Russell J. Blong (1984)

Keep in mind that there have been lots of eruptions that have been bigger than these, but they either happened in a more remote area or very long ago.

About Robert Peckyno

For more information about me, visit http://www.pecknotes.com
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1 Response to Which volcano has killed the most people?

  1. wow great!! the two most danger Volcanoes are in my country ‘Indonesia’!!!

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