An emergency preparedness “risk map” of Mount Vesuvius, Europe’s only active volcano, has been prepared, Italian geologists said.
The map of 251 square miles includes the mountain and the nearby city of Naples. It was prepared by researches from Pisa and Bari Universities, and “permits the first major preliminary evaluation of the areas potentially at risk,” a Pisa University statement said.
The analysis, a first for Vesuvius, is based on 500 years of land movement around the famous volcano, which has erupted about three dozen times since it buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD, killing about 2,000 people. The most serious eruption killed about 4,000 people in 1641 AD.
It’s a first step towards drawing up new detailed evacuation plans,” said Pisa University’s Giovanni Zanchetta. Naples occasionally goes through scares about its famous volcano.
Despite its relative inactivity in recent times and repeated assurances by authorities that Vesuvius is not poised to erupt and pour lava and ash onto Naples- though volcanologist Franco Barberi recently noted Naples residents would be evacuated smoothly if it did- the city endures occasional panics.
The most recent panic occurred in 2008, when a loud bang, caused by sonic booms of fighter planes, was heard over the cit. The overloaded eruption hotline informed worried callers the noise had nothing to do with the volcano.
Recent eruption forecasts have varied, saying the dormant volcano could slumber on for decades or centuries.
Around a million people currently live and work around Vesuvius, and at the current rate of expansion this could swell by a further 200,000 by 2016.
In 2003 authorities in Naples started offering people living on the volcano’s slopes hefty cash incentives to move away.
So far, there have been few takers.