The mayor of the island of Vulcano, in the Aeolian archipelago of Sicily, has ordered the evacuation of around 150 people and banned tourists due to increased volcanic activity and gas in the area.
Last October, the Italian civil protection agency issued an orange alert for the small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, about 25 km north of Sicily, after a series of significant changes in volcanic parameters.
The mayor, Marco Giorgianni, ordered the evacuation of around 150 people in the port area of the island, considered by the Italian authorities to be the most exposed to sulphurous gases.
“The data indicates an increase in gases which are of great concern because they may pose a threat to public health,” the mayor said on Saturday during a meeting with residents broadcast live on Facebook.
According to the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), there has been an increase in heavy gases which reduce the amount of oxygen in the air, creating breathing difficulties which can have fatal effects.
Local authorities have also created a “red zone” where the level of gas attributed to volcanic activity is more concentrated, with values of carbon dioxide (CO2) above normal levels, and restricts the movement of the remaining residents of their homes between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. The island will be closed to tourists for a month.
On October 21, several people on the island reported that the volcanic emissions had caused illness in their pets. “One day I suddenly noticed that my 10 cats were lying on the ground as if they had passed out,” Stefania Lombardo told the Italian daily La Repubblica, “and I was not feeling well either, j was having difficulty breathing. They told me it was just a panic attack, then the doctors confirmed that the cause of the illness was the exhalation of gas from the crater.
Last month, referring to “the increase in degassing, temperatures and seismicity” on the island, Marco Pistolesi, professor of volcanology at the University of Pisa, said: “for those who know the island, this has never been observed before ”.
The last eruption on Vulcano dates back over 130 years and lasted from August 2, 1888 to March 22, 1890.
The Romans believed that the small island was the fireplace of Vulcan, the god of fire.