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Italy draws up emergency plans for Campi Flegrei super volcano

Christian Fernsby |
The Italian government is set to allocate more than €500 million to make buildings safe in the Campi Flegrei area near Naples where a flurry of seismic activity in recent days is causing panic among residents.

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The measure was announced by the civil protection minister Nello Musumeci at a press conference on Wednesday following inter-ministerial talks chaired by premier Giorgia Meloni.

The meeting was called to address the ongoing "seismic storm" of tremors at Campi Flegrei, a highly seismic zone of supervolcanic calderas, which was rocked by a 4.4 magnitude earthquake near Pozzuoli on Monday night, its strongest quake in 40 years.

The earthquake was part of a flurry of 150 tremors in five hours, prompting many local residents to spend the night in their cars, and was followed by a 3.6 magnitude quake on Wednesday morning.

Musumeci said that a "yellow alert" remains in place and that the government is working with local and regional authorities "to define an evacuation plan which, if necessary, must be implemented immediately."

The minister said that school buildings will be a priority in the safety plan and confirmed that schools in the area will remain closed until Friday.

"In the so-called red zone, the most dangerous area, there are 1,250 houses that would be at high seismic risk and 2,750 at medium risk", Musumeci stated, adding that around 80,000 people live in the area.

He said that regulations will be approved to prohibit any new construction in the most at-risk areas, noting that the "excessive anthropisation, which should have been prevented in the past, today also creates problems from the point of view of the evacuation plan".

Musumeci also said that government is considering the possibility of supporting Campi Flegrei residents who wish to relocate.

"Those who chose to live in the Campi Flegrei area knew that they lived in a difficult area that presents risks" - he said - "If you decide to stay in that place you must help us promote responsible coexistence with greater awareness".

The Campo Flegrei volcano last erupted in 1538 however earthquakes have been common in the area since 1950, with a surge of seismic unrest in the early 1980s.

Experts believe the recent spike in seismic activity is linked to bradyseism, a phenomenon that involves the gradual uplift or descent of part of the earth's surface, caused by the filling or emptying of underground magma chambers or hydrothermal activity.


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