Colombia 1985

International Operation Name: not applicable

International Operation Dates:  not applicable

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name:  South America

Location:  Colombia

Canadian Operation Name: (Colombia 1985)

Canadian Operation Dates: 1985/11/15 – 1985/11/30

Mission Mandate:

To deliver humanitarian assistance to mudslide survivors in Colombia

Mission Notes:

In November 1985, the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, located about 100 west of Bogota, Colombia, had been dormant for 140 years.  Last erupting in 1845, the top of the volcano was covered in a vast snow field and ice pack.  Situated about 50 kilometres east of the volcano was the town of Armero, population 27,000, situated in a valley leading off the volcano’s slopes.  The citizens of the town and surrounding villages were aware that the volcano was awakening, having felt rumblings over the past year. 

At 3:00 PM on 13 November, Nevado del Ruiz started erupting – with pumice and ash raining down on Armero two hours later.  The local Red Cross initiated an evacuation order at 7:00 PM; however, shortly thereafter, the volcanic eruption apparently stopped.  The evacuation was halted.  With the people of the town snug in their beds, Nevado del Ruiz began discharging lava at 9:00 PM.  This melted the vast snow and icefields on the peak and slopes.  A storm obscured the top of the volcano, preventing citizens from observing the eruption.  The resulting meltwater raced down the valleys off the volcano’s slopes, picking up boulders, mud and debris in its rush – a phenomenon known as a lahar.  When it reached the town of Armero two hours later, the lahar was 30 metres high and carrying boulders 10 metres in size.  The town was literally swept away, burying over 23,000 people in 3 to 5 metres of mud.  The Columbian government asked the United Nations for help.

The Canadian Forces participated in the relief operation by flying one Hercules-load of blankets, medicine and other relief supplies.

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