Heeding a Warning May Save Your Life
A WARNING might be a traffic sign stating “Slow,” “Caution,” or “Yield”; or it might be a flashing yellow light. It might be found on a container of medicine or poison. Heeding such warnings is no great inconvenience, and it may save your life.
However, in some cases it may mean a disrupting of plans or a loss of material possessions. Storm and hurricane warnings may require fishermen to return to shore or to stay in port and not work that day. Warnings may mean not only a disrupting of plans but an abandoning of home and possessions, or the putting up with the inconvenience of temporary shelters. Sometimes such warnings go unheeded, with resultant loss of life.
For example, in the spring of the year 1902, all things were going well on the beautiful Caribbean island of Martinique. Then warnings of disaster began to appear as Mount Pelée, a volcanic mountain located about five miles (8 km) from St. Pierre, the island’s principal city, became active. Eventually, as smoke, ash, and bits of rock belched forth along with acrid fumes, townspeople became apprehensive. Conditions continued to worsen, and it should have been evident that real danger was imminent.
Because the sugarcane harvest was approaching, St. Pierre’s businessmen assured the people that there was no danger. The politicians, concerned with the upcoming election, did not want the people to be fleeing, so they spoke in a similar vein. The religious leaders cooperated by telling their parishioners that all was well. Then, on May 8, Mount Pelée exploded with a tremendous roar. Superheated black clouds raced toward St. Pierre, and some 30,000 people died.
For many generations Mount St. Helens, located in the state of Washington, U.S.A., was a picture of peace and serenity. The area was filled with a great variety of wildlife and was ideal for hiking and fishing. But then in March 1980, danger signals came in the form of numerous earthquakes and minor eruptions of steam. By early May the mountain was acting up with greater intensity. Local and state officials began to issue warnings of danger to those in the area of the volcano.
Still, a number of people remained in the area, while others ignored signs warning against crossing into the danger area. Suddenly, early Sunday morning, May 18, there was a tremendous explosion that blew off some 1,300 feet (400 m) of the mountaintop and rained down destruction on plants and animals, as well as on some 60 humans who had failed to heed the warnings given.
In contrast, in November 1986, Mount Mihara on the island of Izu-Oshima, Japan, suddenly erupted, threatening the whole island along with its population of ten thousand islanders and tourists. When the announcement, “Evacuate now!” came, they heeded the warning. The following articles from Awake! correspondent in Japan tell the story.