Speech In June 1991, the second largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century* took place on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, a mere 90 kilometers (55 miles) northwest of the capital city Manila. Mount Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano, near the tripoint of the Philippine provinces of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga. Mount Pinatubo is part of a chain of composite volcanoes along the Luzon arc on the west coast of the island. The arc of volcanoes is due to the subduction of the Manila trench to the west.
The volcano experienced major eruptions approximately 500, 3000, and 5500 years ago. Up to 800 people were killed and 100,000 became homeless following the Mount Pinatubo eruption, which climaxed with nine hours of eruption on June 15, 1991. On June 15, millions of tons of sulfur dioxide were discharged into the atmosphere, resulting in a decrease in the temperature worldwide over the next few years. The human impacts of the disaster are staggering.
In addition to the up to 800 people who lost their lives, there was almost one half of a billion dollars in property and economic damage. The economy of central Luzon was horribly disrupted. In 1991, the volcano destroyed 4,979 homes and damaged another 70,257. The following year 3,281 homes were destroyed and 3,137 were damaged. Damage following the Mount Pinatubo eruption was usually caused by lahars – rain-induced torrents of volcanic debris that killed people and animals and buried homes in the months after the eruption.