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Pinatubo Crater


Mount Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano located on the island of Luzon, at the intersection of the borders of the Philippine provinces of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga. It is located in the Cabusilan Mountain range separating the west coast of Luzon from the central plains, and is 42 km west of the dormant and more prominent Mount Arayat, occasionally mistaken for Pinatubo. Ancestral Pinatubo was a stratovolcano made of andesite and dacite. Before 1991, the mountain was inconspicuous and heavily eroded. It was covered in dense forest which supported a population of several thousand indigenous people, the Aeta, who had fled to the mountains from the lowlands during the protracted Spanish conquest of the Philippines which first commenced in 1565.

The volcano's ultra-Plinian eruption in June 1991 produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century and the largest eruption in living memory. The colossal 1991 eruption had a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 6, and came some 450–500 years after the volcano's last known eruptive activity , and some 1000 years after previous VEI 6 eruptive activity. Successful predictions of the onset of the climactic eruption led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from the surrounding areas, saving many lives, but surrounding areas were severely damaged by pyroclastic flows, ash deposits, and later by lahars caused by rainwater remobilizing earlier volcanic deposits: thousands of houses and other buildings were destroyed. 

The word 'pinatubo' means 'to have made grow' in Tagalog and Sambal, which may suggest a knowledge of its previous eruption in about AD 1500, although there is no oral tradition among local people of earlier large eruptions. Pinatubo might instead mean a fertile place where crops can be made to grow. An indigenous group of people, the Aetas also spelled as Ayta, had lived on the slopes of the volcano and in surrounding areas for several centuries, having fled the lowlands to escape persecution by the Spanish. They were a hunter-gatherer people who were extremely successful in surviving in the dense jungles of the area. These people also grew some staple crops such as wheat, barley and rice.

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