Seismic Activity Near Naples Is Intensifying

Phlegraean Fields region recently had its strongest quake in 40 years
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2023 12:40 PM CDT
After Tremors, People Near Naples Fear Mass Evacuation
In this photo taken on Saturday, April 30, 2016, a steaming fumarola is seen from close, at the Solfatara crater bed, in the Phlegraean Fields near Naples, Italy. Fields.   (AP Photo/Frances D'Emilio)

A rise in seismic activity west of Naples has sparked fears that the government will order a mass evacuation of the area for the first time in decades. A 4.0-magnitude earthquake in the area Tuesday came less than a week after a 4.2 quake that the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology—INGV— says was the region's strongest in 40 years, CNN reports. In recent weeks, there have been hundreds of smaller tremors in the densely populated Campi Flegrei area, a region of ancient volcanoes also known as the Phlegraean Fields, reports the AP. Authorities say buildings have been damaged but there have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

"The seismic activity has been intensifying for months. We have observed over 3,000 tremors since the start of 2023," Gianfilippo De Astis, senior researcher at INGV, tells the AP. "Only 65, however, were above a 2.0 magnitude." Campi Flegrei is the site of the largest caldera in Europe, the remains of a supervolcano that erupted 39,000 years ago in an event thought to have driven the Neanderthals toward extinction. The last eruption in the area was in 1538. De Astis says seismic activity known as "bradyseism," which involves the rising and falling of the ground level, has been happening for thousands of years and there is no sign an eruption is imminent. "People should not be afraid. Or rather, they should be, but only when we say so," says Sandro De Vita, another INGV volcanologist.

Authorities are updating emergency plans that could involve the evacuation of up to 500,000 people. "We live in a constant state of anxiety. People cannot sleep, the slightest tremor and they run," says Alfredo Colato, a 62-year-old who lives in the heart of the region and remembers burying eggs to cook in a volcanic field when he was a boy. He has an emergency bag packed, but he tells AFP he is worried that being forced to move elsewhere long-term would "kill me twice." Another resident, 78-year-old Felice Galloro, says he knows people who have not reported quake damage to their homes because they don't want to leave. (More Italy stories.)

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