Earthquakes, Eruption and Ecocatastrophes: The Troubled Times of Latin America

Essay by VidkunQuislingUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, May 2006

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Latin America is home to more than five hundred million people. Of these, ninety million people live within one mile of an active volcano. Furthermore, Latin America is precariously situated on five tectonic plates- the South American, North American, Cocos, Caribbean, and Nazca Plates. The danger of natural disasters is glaringly obvious in this region of the world. In fact, over the past forty years over 200,000 people have died from such causes, ranging from earthquakes to volcanoes to mudslides and more. Sometimes, multiple disasters occur all at once, compounding the outcome and making it even more horrific. The question to be asked is: If nature's wrath is sending this message of peril, then why do people continue to ignore it?

There are more than one hundred active volcanoes in Latin Ameria. Chile alone has thirty-six, more than any other country in the world except Japan. Most of these volcanoes pose little or no immediate threat to the human population.

Some of them have been dormant for hundreds and even thousands of years. However, even a small volcano can produce an eruption large enough to devastate entire villages. Two of them- Huascaran and Nevado del Ruiz- showed just how much destruction they were capable of producing in two of the deadliest volcano eruptions ever to strike Latin America.

Huascaran is located in northern Peru along the Pacific coast. The people of Yungay and Ranrahirca, two small farming villages at the base of the volcano, were too preoccupied with their daily chores to worry about Huascaran erupting. Furthermore, the World Cup Soccer matches were being televised, and Peru was in contention for the championship. The two towns knew that Huascaran was prone to violent eruptions. In 1962, the mountain had blown its top, resulting in the deaths of 7,500...