The Italian government has been preparing for a possible mass evacuation of tens of thousands of residents due to a supervolcano that has caused around 2,500 earthquakes since September. According to NBC News, residents in the city of Pozzuoli, which is outside of Naples, are concerned about the recent activity since they live in the volcanic area of Campi Flegrei. The 80-square-mile depression is home to more than a dozen conical volcanoes, several crater lakes and half a million residents. Another 800,000 people live just outside the depression, the outlet reported.
According to the US Geological Society, a supervolcano is defined as “a volcanic centre that has had an eruption of magnitude 8 on the Volcano Explosivity Index (VEI), meaning that at one point in time, it erupted more than 1,000 cubic kilometres (240 cubic miles) of material”. Italy’s official tourism website characterises Campi Flegrei as a “dormant supervolcano, one of the few of the earth’s surface”. And according to NBC News, Campi Flegrei’s last eruption took place in 1538.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Alessandro Iannace, a geology professor at the University of Naples Federico II, said that in Campi Flegrei, like in Yellowstone and the world’s other supervolcanoes, the probability of a catastrophic eruption is low but not nil.
The outlet explained that a phenomenon known as bradyseism has been attributed to the increase in recent earthquakes in the Campi Flegrei. The area around Pozzuoli’s port has risen about 11.5 feet since the late 1960s, including more than 3 feet since 2014, according to Italy’s National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology.
The Italian government reviewed the situation last month and said that authorities would call for an evacuation if officials feel that buildings could be prone to collapse. Nello Musumeci, a civil protection minister, said that any evacuation would take place only in the event of “extreme necessity,” The Guardian reported.
Moreover, as per WSJ, pamphlets have also been distributed to locals in Pozzouli on what to do in case of an eruption and its aftermath. “Everybody here knows the evacuation plan is inadequate. But it’s probably not even necessary, because everybody will have left by the time the volcano erupts,” resident Claudio Correale told the outlet.
According to a recent study by Italy’s National Institute and University College London, an eruption in Campi Flegrei isn’t imminent, but earthquakes have weakened the volcano, making a rupture in the crust more likely.