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Earthquakes For Members

'We have to live with fear': Panic as tremors shake Italy's Campi Flegrei

AFP
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'We have to live with fear': Panic as tremors shake Italy's Campi Flegrei
Smoke rises from the "solfatara" at the Campi Flegrei a volcanic region close to Naples, on October 4, 2023. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP.

A flurry of tremors of a strength not seen in decades was registered at a volcanic caldera near the southern Italian city of Naples on Monday night, sparking panic among residents but resulting in no major damage, authorities said.

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One 4.4-magnitude quake was registered shortly after 8 pm (1800 GMT) at a depth of 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles), according to the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV).

It was preceded moments earlier by a 3.5-magnitude tremor and followed by dozens of aftershocks.

The Campi Flegrei - or Phlegraean Fields, as the caldera is known - experienced about 150 earthquakes between 7:51 pm on Monday and 12:31 am on Tuesday, the INGV said in a report.

READ ALSO: ‘Constant anxiety’: What life is like on Italy’s Campi Flegrei volcano

According to the institute's Mauro Di Vito, this was "the most powerful seismic swarm in the last 40 years".

Emergency services in the area reported cracks and pieces falling from buildings, while amateur video from a supermarket in the town of Pozzuoli showed bottles strewn across the floor after being shaken off shelves.

Cracks are seen on the road near the Campi Flegrei on October 4, 2023 in Pozzuoli. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)

Many residents of Pozzuoli, west Naples, rushed out of their homes into the street following the tremors.

Italy's Civil Protection Department said on Tuesday morning that 39 families had been evacuated from 13 buildings following safety inspections.

The mayor of Pozzuoli, Gigi Manzoni, urged people to remain calm but acknowledged it was a situation that was "stressing us all".

Four reception centres were set up overnight for people who did not feel safe in their homes, while authorities in Naples arranged to send 400 temporary beds to the area.

Schools were closed on Tuesday to allow authorities to carry out safety checks.

Italy's INGV said it would continue to monitor the caldera and that "other seismic events cannot be ruled out," including tremors "of a force similar to that which has already been recorded during the current swarm".

The Campi Flegrei is situated between Pozzuoli and Naples, which sits in the shadow of the much better-known Mount Vesuvius further to the east.

The Campi Flegrei experienced an eruption 40,000 years ago that affected the planet's climate, and it has been a source of concern to residents and scientists more recently thanks to a resurgence of activity due to gases emitted by the magma.

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Residents are used to the tremors but many of the 500,000 inhabitants living in the danger zone were already spooked by a 4.2-magnitude quake last September.

"We have to live with fear all the time," a Pozzuoli resident told the public channel Rainews. "How long will the buildings be able to hold out while experiencing all these shocks? That's what we wonder."

Specialists, however, say a full-blown eruption in the near future remains unlikely.

The INGV recalled on Tuesday that in the 1980s there were more than 1,300 seismic events a month and hydrothermal activity caused the ground to lift by nine centimetres (3.5 inches) a month.

By contrast, some 450 seismic events have been recorded in the last month and the lifting speed remained steady at two centimetres a month.

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