Italy is bracing itself for the eruption of Camp Flegrei, a super volcano in the Naples region. Plans have been put in place for evacuations, as well as testing the stability of buildings and infrastructure. The combined population of the area is over half a million people and tens of thousands could be evacuated in the event the volcano goes off.
Named for the Greek word for ‘burning fields’, Camp Flegrei is just 20 kilometres from Naples and part of the city could be affected by an eruption. While nearby Vesuvius is better known for destroying ancient Rome’s Pompeii in AD79, the Camp Flegrei “caldera”, is much larger, over 11 km long (7 miles) and composed of 24 craters.
Though the super volcano has not erupted significantly since 1538, magma from that blast was found as far away as Greenland.
Repeated earthquakes have been happening in the region for months, signalling an increase in seismic activity that has authorities concerned. Experts say this is probably due to “bradyseism”, a rising or falling of the earth caused by underground magma chambers filling or draining.
The earthquake toll in just the last month came in at over 1,100, shaking communities such as Agnano, Bacoli and Pozzuoli as well as other towns and village nearby. Two of the incidents hit 4.0 on the Richter Scale in the last week – the most powerful tremors for four decades. Those tremors weaken the structure of local architecture, as well as the caldera, making it more vulnerable to the pressure building below.
The president of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), Carlo Doglioni told TGCom24: “We are monitoring the situation but we don’t know how it will evolve. In the event of an eruption, we don’t know when or where it could happen. However small, it would cause social unrest.”
Ecacuations only in case of “extreme necessity”
Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci has stated that evacuations would only be undertaken in case of “extreme necessity”. However, local emergency care providers such as hospitals, were expecting to be stress-tested with evacuation simulations from last week, according to local news sources.
It is also anticipated the Italian cabinet will begin to empower local civil protection agencies through increased funds as well as improved communication systems and the ability to fundraise.
A traffic light risk assessment system of green, yellow, and red states of alert has been put in place to be reassessed monthly. Pozzuoli, where 40,000 people were evacuated from in the 1980s after a similar series of tremors, is currently deemed yellow.
Text alerts will also be sent to locals every time a 1.5 or greater magnitude event on the Richter scale is detected.
The evacuation plan drawn up proposes that residents be transported out of the area within three days, whether by private or public means.