The world's largest volcanic eruption in the past 100 years is the June 15, 1991, eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. Several bursts of gas-charged magma exploded into umbrella ash clouds, hot flows of gas and ash descended the volcano's flanks and lahars swept down valleys. The collaborative work of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology saved more than 5,000 lives and $250 million in property by forecasting the eruption in time to evacuate local residents and the U.S. Clark Air Base.
As in 1991, the USGS continues to be supported by USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, providing scientific assistance to countries around the world though VDAP, the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. The program and its partners respond to volcanic unrest, build monitoring infrastructure, assess hazards and vulnerability, and improve understanding of eruptive processes and forecasting to prevent natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions, from becoming human tragedies. Read more about the Mount Pinatubo 1991 eruption.
In 2016, the US—Colombia Binational Exchange will bring together emergency managers, first responders, planners, and other non–scientific personnel from the two countries who have a role in volcano hazards mitigation. Participants will engage in face–to–face forums to share experience and best practices. Building upon the successes and lessons learned during similar exchanges in 2013 and 2015, small groups will participate in targeted sessions throughout the year, which will culminate in an international exchange this Fall.
While visiting partner countries, scientists and public officials will get a firsthand view of the effects of volcanic hazards, observe mitigation and response strategies used by communities facing similar threats, and devote discussions to cooperative planning within their home communities. To date, these exchanges have led to the development of multiple local initiatives such as creating websites devoted to volcano hazard awareness and preparation, installation of interpretive signage, creating maps of evacuation routes, as well as developing cohesiveness among emergency management staff and cooperative organizations. The program was developed by the USGS–USAID Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) and the USGS Volcano Science Center.