Paricutin: the church which stood over a sea of lava

28 mayo 2007

On February 20, 1943, a volcano suddenly rose from the ground at the Mexican state of Michoacan, and buried two villages in lava and ashes. Today, 64 years after the eruption, the only trace of the villages is the church tower of San Juan Parangaricutiro, a little building which stood above a sea of rugged lava.

The church of San Juan is now a ghostly and abandoned ruin in the middle of nowhere. During the eruption, the lava flowed around and into the church, and covered 3/4 of the town. Just beneath the church, the old houses and buildings keep buried under the rocks.

The man who saw a volcano born

That day, on February 20, a mexican farmer, named Dionisio Pulido was working in his cornfield when the ground nearby opened in a fissure about 150 feet long. "I then felt a thunder," he recalled later, "the trees trembled, and is was then I saw how, in the hole, the ground swelled and raised it self 2 or 21/2 meters high".

Virtually under the farmer's feet, a volcano was being born. By the next morning, when he returned, the cone had grown to a height of 30 feet and was "hurling out rocks with great violence." During the day, the come grew another 120 feet. That night, incandescent bombs blew more than 1,000 feet up into the darkness, and a slaglike mass of lava rolled over Pulido's cornfields.

Fortunately, no one died from the Parícutin volcano as all residents were evacuated before the villages were covered in lava. At the end of this phase, the volcano had grown 336 metres tall. For the next eight years the volcano would continue erupting, although this was dominated by relatively quiet eruptions of lava that would scorch the surrounding 25 km² of land.

Nowadays, the church buried by lava has become a tourist atraction and an important source for the economy of the region. Paricutin volcano is also included in many versions of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World lists.

* Thank you Muxfin!

More info and sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 y 5 / See more Abandoned places