Pompeii will evacuate people to Sardinia by boat if Vesuvius erupts

Plan comes 2,000 years after notorious eruption and amid increasing seismic activity

Almost 2,000 years after the most notorious volcanic eruption in human history, authorities in Pompeii have discussed a new evacuation plan in case Mount Vesuvius erupts again.

Under the plan, which was discussed after a recent increase in seismic activity, people living in and around the town on the Italian coast would be evacuated to Sardinia by boat.

Experts from the country’s civil protection agency and the municipality of Pompeii stressed there was no need to panic, and that the measures, agreed on Monday, were part of standard emergency planning for environmental disasters.

Last month Flavio Dobran, one of the leading experts on Vesuvius, warned that without a security plan, an eruption could kill thousands of people.

In AD79 the ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed by an eruption that killed more than 2,000 people. The city’s ruins have become one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world.

Map of region

On 16 October archaeologists discovered an engraving that suggested the eruption occurred in October of that year, and not August as had been previously thought. Five days later, two earthquakes of magnitude 1.7 and 1.6 were recorded by seismographs at the Vesuvius Observatory. On 1 December another tremor of magnitude 1.8 was recorded. Authorities said the increased activity was “normal” and not a reason to panic.

Recent research shows that “medium scale” eruptions of volcanoes like Vesuvius occur once every four to five centuries. Vesuvius’ most recent medium-scale eruption occurred in 1631 and destroyed a large part of the area around the volcano, leaving thousands dead.

Dobran, a professor at New York University, warned in November that even with no imminent risk of an eruption, “it is necessary to educate the population and institutions to build a city capable of resisting a possible eruption”.

Pietro Amitrano, the mayor of Pompeii, said he was in talks with Sardinia’s civil protection authorities about a possible evacuation procedure. “We will start a detailed census of our population first and then discuss in which town in Sardinia our citizens will be transferred, hoping that this day will never come,” he said.

The area around Vesuvius is populated by 3 million people, making it the most densely populated volcanic region in the world.

Contributor

Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo

The GuardianTramp

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