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Sleeping giant (for now) PDF Print E-mail
May 01, 2010 at 06:21 PM

Seen from the ruins of Pompeii

It looks peaceful enough, for now. But although there hasn't been a peep out of the Mount Vesuvius volcano since March, 1944 (24 dead), the silence may not last. It is unlikely that if it does erupt again - and volcanologists in Italy say that given the usual cycles of volcanic activity, Vesuvio is dragging its feet - dealing with the event is going to be a real headache.

No one, of course, is expecting the kind of tragedy that the Naples area saw back in 79AD when Herculaneum and Pmpei were wiped out by a gigantic eruption with the consequent deaths of from 10,000 to 25,000 people. The problem is that the area surrounding Vesuvius is (unlike that surrounding the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull) today so densely populated that the chief of Italy's Civil Protection Department, Guido Bertolaso (who despite a recent major scandal has been able to hold onto his job), says an eruption would represent a major problem requiring the evacuation of as many as one million people.

At the moment, the so called "red zone" around the dormant volcano includes 18 towns and cities with a population of between 650,000 and 700,000. But the effects of an an eventual eruption, which would be preceded by a series of earthquakes, would probably reach to parts of Naples itself. "we'd probably have no more than three to four days, possibly a week, to evacuate the area", Bertolaso said recently.


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