El Misti in Peru, as seen from Arequipa.

As I like to remind people concerning volcanic hazards, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure. This is not to imply we can prevent volcanic hazards from affecting us, but rather that proper mitigation in the form of monitoring, planning, education and practice can save countless lives (and dollars) when a volcano erupts. Officials in Peru seem to believe this, as they recently ran for practice evacuations for residents around El Misti, in the southern part of the country. Jersy Mariño from the Instituto Geológico, Minero y Metalúrgico (INGEMMET) says that upwards of 100,000 people living around the volcano (in spanish) could be in harms’ way when El Misti erupts again. So, officials and residents have taken part in evacuation drills to be able to (a) know what to do if a real evacuation is needed and (b) find deficiencies in the current mitigation plan. This goes with the recent volcanic hazards map prepared for the volcano.

El Misti last erupted in 1985 and tends to produce explosive eruptions and pyroclastic flows. Most eruptions are in the VEI 1-2 range, although an eruption ~80 B.C. is believed to be closer to a VEI 4, suggesting that El Misti is clearly capable of large eruptive events. The danger El Misti poses is amplified by the fact that the city of Arequipa, population of over 1,000,000, is only 17 km / 10.5 miles from the summit of the volcano. Just looking at the topography around the volcano shows that most large flows – pyroclastic or lahars – will be funneled towards the greater Arequipa area. The more that can be done to prepare the area for El Misti’s next eruption, the less likely a true disaster might occur.


  1. #1 mike
    May 18, 2009

    Misti is a spectacular volcano. Another volcano nearby, Ubinas, has been erupting off and on for several years now. I visited this area two years ago and was surprised that so many people live right at the foot of Misti.

  2. #2 MikeL
    February 27, 2010

    I climbed El Misti back in 2007 (they did tell us it was active – it was very much an “at your own risk” thing). Truly spectacular views from the top, both of Arequipa and of the surrounding landscape. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done: we spent 12 hours (over 2 days) hiking to get to the caldera (Altitude ~5800m), but on the plus side we were able to run down the pyroclastic flow shute in about 40 minutes. The volcanic ash is so soft it’s like snow. If you fall over while running (it feels more like skiing) it doesn’t matter, you just roll until you stop. Did get the ash in my camera though – screwed up the zoom lens 🙂 So much fun!

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