The Chilean Town Engulfed by a Volcanic Mudflow



Image: macha chile / Javier Rubilar

A slurry of mud and rocky debris rushing down a mountain and engulfing everything in its path has to figure as one of nature’s most terrifying natural disaster types. Such phenomena, known as lahars, are frequently triggered by the lava or pyroclastic flows of erupting volcanoes. They often take the path of river valleys, bulldozing all before them.

In May of 2008, one such lahar swept through the Chilean town of Chaitén – population 4,200 – destroying much of it, and causing the banks of the Blanco River to overflow, flooding what was left.


Image: Javier Rubilar

Lahars have the consistency and density of wet concrete. According to the United States Geological Survey: “Large lahars hundreds of meters wide and tens of meters deep can flow several tens of meters per second – much too fast for people to outrun.” Moreover, not content to simply devour everything in their path, when they stop they become solid – again, much like concrete.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT