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10 Ways the Earth Is Trying to Kill You


10
Exterminating Eruptions
Mount Sinabung erupting in Indonesia in June 2015 © Yudha Lesmana/Demotix/Corbis
Mount Sinabung erupting in Indonesia in June 2015 © Yudha Lesmana/Demotix/Corbis

Living near a volcano is sort of like living in a bad neighborhood. A really, really, really bad neighborhood where you have to sleep with one eye open and look over your shoulder everywhere you go. Because volcanoes wield a multitude of ways to kill you.

For each year of the 20th century, volcanoes killed more than 800 people. In recorded history, volcanoes have snuffed out the lives of roughly a quarter of a million humans, although that number could be much higher.

Red-hot, glowing lava is a volcano's signature showstopper, but it's also too slow to be very deadly. You're more likely to be felled by pyroclastic flows, which burst from the Earth's innards as a combination of hot gases, mud and rock, hurling down a mountain at hundreds of miles per hour.

Although they're far less spectacular, invisible poisonous gases are another real danger. When released from volcanos, these gases can swiftly overwhelm entire communities, killing every living creature.

Volcanoes also eject massive rocks that squash people and buildings. Even if it's the size of a house, you probably won't see that big boulder before it hits you.

Finally, volcanoes can spew tons of rock ash, which looks light and fluffy but is actually finely ground rock. A few inches of compacted ash can crush buildings and cars, and just as awfully, it can kill endless acres of crops, make transportation impossible and grind entire cities to a halt.