The most dangerous part of a volcanic eruption really depends on the type of eruption and the location of the volcano. Though lava flows are probably one of the most well-known effects, and do destroy everything in their path as well as present a fire danger, they are also very slow-moving and thus do not present any immediate danger to human life. Mudflows, on the other hand, are very fast-moving and especially dangerous near stream channels and during/after heavy rainfalls. The ash and gasses spewed into the atmosphere by a volcano present a health hazard to infants, elderly, and people with respiratory ailments, but again, these can be controlled through evacuation, face-masks, closed windows, etc. There are some longer-term effects from the gasses emitted during eruption. Carbon dioxide of course adds to the excess already in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Sulfur dioxide converts to sulfuric acid in the form of aerosols that affect the heating of the earth, and hydrogen chloride can return to the earth as acid rain. Finally, earthquakes, tsunamis, flash floods, and fires can also result in the aftermath of a volcano. The most dangerous part really depends on surrounding terrain and how populated an area is.
In the past 200 years, the famine and disease following volcanic eruptions have been deadlier than the volcanic eruptions themselves. Pyroclastic flows are the deadliest part of the eruption itself. A pyroclastic flow is a current of gas and rock that can move as fast as 450 miles per hour.
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