The Italian Almanac


Italian News - March 10

Recent claims that Vesuvius could be set for a massive eruption are groundless and irresponsible, Italy's top volcano expert said on Thursday. An assertion by a US vulcanologist that the volcano has a 50% chance of sowing disaster this year unless current evacuation plans are changed is "absolutely devoid of scientific basis," said the head of Italy's Vulcanology Institute INGV, Enzo Boschi.

Boschi said INGV could "categorically deny the alarmist and irresponsible statements regarding the future activity of Vesuvius" made by Buffalo University's Michael Sheridan to a US newswire last Friday. Sheridan was speaking ahead of last Monday's publication of an article he authored with Naples vulcanologists warning that evacuation plans based on the best-known eruption of the volcano, the 79 AD blast that destroyed Pompeii, should be urgently updated.

The article, in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), claimed that Vesuvius was set for a repetition of a largely ignored 4,000 BC eruption that spread fire and ash in a 17km radius. Such an event would threaten the whole of Naples, not just the southern slopes covered by current emergency plans.

Boschi said the INGV had already charted all of Vesuvius previous eruptions, going back as far as 25,000 years ago. The findings published in the PNAS only added "details of the chronology and geographical spread" of the 4,000 BC blast, he said. "The possible periodicity of about 2,000 years for a major eruption, which would raise fears of a short-term event, has no statistical foundation".

"Vesuvius is the most studied volcano in the world," Boschi observed. "The scenarios examined with the help of the Civil Protection department are the most accurate possible and the evacuation plans will not be changed".