Two powerful volcanoes erupted in the same week, one in Guatemala, the other in Hawaii. The eruptions were not connected, and the devastation was entirely different. In Guatemala, a fast-moving pyroclastic flow engulfed the residents of a nearby village, killing more than a hundred people, and leaving a scene reminiscent of Pompeii. Meanwhile, in Hawaii, Kilauea’s slow-moving lava rivers have devastated hundreds of homes, although fortunately, they have not yet caused any deaths.
Tale of Two Volcanoes
Published June 14, 2018
Onscreen: Two volcanoes just erupted with destructive power. Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego and Hawaii’s Kilauea. The eruptions aren’t connected, and hazards are different
At Fuego, hot volcanic ash and mud engulfed a nearby village. At least 75 people died, over 3,000 evacuated. And the death toll is expected to climb
John Stix: EI Fuego is known for its pyroclastic flows.
Onscreen: Pyroclastic flows are not lava.
Stix: They’re very similar to snow avalanches. They move very fast, just like a snow avalanche does.
Onscreen: Except pyroclastic particles consist of volcanic ash and rock, tumbling down a volcano at hundreds of miles per hour
Stix: Anybody, or anything in the path of a pyroclastic flow, once it’s started, you don’t really have the time to get out of the way of it. So they will burn and asphyxiate anybody in their path. It’s a small-scale Pompeii, in a sense.
Onscreen: The rainy season just started in Guatemala, increasing the risk of mudflows called lahars.
Stix: Loose ash will mix with the rain and create mudflows that will impact a lot of people.
Onscreen: They can travel farther than pyroclastic flows.
Stix: They can move faster than you can run.
Onscreen: Meanwhile, new explosions at Kilauea rocked the summit, sending ash thousands of feet into the air. And a new massive river of lava is believed to have destroyed nearly 300 homes.
Stix: A lava flow is a slow-moving liquid which is highly viscous, not moving very fast...these lava flows have been moving slowly—people can get out of the way.
Onscreen: So far, Kilauea’s recent activity has caused no deaths. But there may be more hazards to come.
USGS Jessica Ballx: There is now a flow that has channelized south of the new delta.
Onscreen: Stirring up a laze: a dangerous mix of lava and haze. Residents continue to keep an eye on both volcanoes.
- Fatima Husain
- Digital Producer
- Arlo Perez
- USGS, AP, Getty, StoryBlocks, Shutterstock
- Editorial Review
- Julia Cort, Ari Daniel
- © WGBH Educational Foundation 2018