An eruption of Mount Etna recently caught out some BBC journalists who were filming there. The footage was extraordinary and highlighted the hazards volcanoes pose to humans and society.
Since 1600, 278,880 people have been killed by volcanic activity, with many of these deaths attributed to secondary hazards associated with the main eruption. Starvation killed 92,000 following the 1815 Tambora eruption in Indonesia, for example, and a volcanic tsunami killed 36,000 following the 1883 Krakatoa eruption.
Since the 1980s, deaths related to volcanic eruptions have been rather limited, but this is not entirely a result of increased preparedness or investment in hazard management – it is significantly a matter of chance.
Research shows that volcanic activity has shown no let up since the turn of the 21st century – it just hasn’t been around population centres. Indeed, there remain a number of volcanoes poised to blow which pose a major threat to life and livelihood.