April 28, 2010

Vesuvius Eruption Would Affect 1 Million

The biggest threat to the safety of Italian citizens is Mount Vesuvius, which could pose a risk to over a million people if it were to erupt, the country's public safety minister said on Tuesday.

"Vesuvius is the biggest public safety problem there is in Italy, because entire towns lie in the area of the volcano and would be invaded by an eruption," Guido Bertolaso told reporters during a news conference yesterday. "For the time being the volcano is quiet, but we know very well that the day Vesuvius wakes up the situation will be absolutely dramatic."

The volcano, which is located six miles east of Naples, last erupted in 1944, killing 26 and leaving 12,000 homeless. However, geological experts have predicted that the next eruption could be far stronger--perhaps on par with a 1631 explosion that killed 4,000 people.

There are 18 towns surrounding the volcano, with a combined population of approximately 650,000, Bertolaso said during the press conference. Furthermore, a powerful eruption could also create a smoke and ash column that could cover a radius of 15-miles and reach up to 12-miles high.

That has lead the minister to call for a re-evaluation of Italy's disaster response plan "to see whether there is a need to widen the 'red zone' and elaborate evacuation plans for at least one million people, including many from Naples".

Time is of the essence, according to Bertolaso.

"Unfortunately, no one in the world can predict when a volcano will wake up"¦ or predict an earthquake," he said, according to the AFP. "There's a week or 10 days from the first signs until the moment it's too late."

Image Credit Wikipedia