January 29, 2009

Vesuvius Volcano Still A Threat

Mount Vesuvius has not erupted for the past 65 years, but a geologist warned it continues to remain a threat to hundreds of thousands of people living near the southern Italian city of Naples.

"Vesuvius is a very dangerous volcano," Francesco Russo said in Rome. "According to some statistics, there is a 27 percent chance of an explosive eruption in the next 100 years."

With so many people potentially at risk, Vesuvius is under close surveillance, with seismographs and a satellite.

The previous explosive eruption was in 1631; it killed 4,000 people. There was another smaller eruption in 1944 that killed 26 people, and ruined 12,000 homes.

Russo leads a Naples-area geologists association. He said civil protection measures against a possible eruption were "inadequate."

"Some 600,000 people live in the 'red zone,' meaning they would be directly threatened by this type of explosion," he said. "But we're not sure we would be able to evacuate them."

Even with a week's warning, "it would be difficult," he said.

"The authorities are not doing enough," Russo said. "Evacuation plans are not reliable; the plans for getting people to leave threatened areas are inadequate."

Russo openly scorned an offer by regional authorities to pay people $40,000 to move out of danger zones.

"Of course it didn't work. What kind of home can you buy for that price?"

He warned that between two and five million people would be threatened if there happened to be a repeat of the eruption that destroyed Pompeii.

However, Russo believes the likelihood of such an event is only around one percent.

In 79 AD, Vesuvius spewed ash over a 12-mile radius.

The eruption blanketed Pompeii and other cities as well as farmland in the region.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia