Half the population of Naples is now at risk from the volcano known as ‘Europe’s time bomb’.
A new assessment has added 63 new towns and villages to the list of municipalities that would be hit if Mount Vesuvius was to erupt.
The expanded danger zone – the ‘yellow zone’ – now stretches across the provinces of Naples and Salerno
Those living in the ‘yellow zone’ would be showered with falling ash and rocks, sufficient to topple buildings in some cases, in the event of a significant eruption.
Casting a shadow: Half of the population of Naples is now classed as being at risk of falling ash and rocks in the event of a significant eruption. Pictured, a view of Naples shows the snow-covered Mount Vesuvius
These neighbourhoods can be added to the 600,000 residents who have already been warned that they live in the ‘red zone’, which is the area that is most at risk.
The ‘red zone’ consists of the properties that could find themselves directly in the paths of deadly pyroclastic flows – clouds of scalding gas, ash and rock which would explode down the slopes of the volcano at terrifying speeds of up to 200mph hour.
‘The experts have said that in the event of a big eruption and in certain atmospheric conditions, the ash and powder could reach these places further away,’ said city council spokesman Domenico Annunziata, reported The Independent.
‘But there’s no need to be alarmist. We’re talking about falling powder, so it wouldn’t be devastating.’
Naples, with a population of around three million, has grown up in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed the city of Pompeii in 79AD.
The last great eruption, which occurred in 1631, killed 6,000 people. While a smaller explosion, in 1944, brought with it some ash clouds and lava flows.
The province’s emergency plan, which would be launched if warning signs of an imminent eruption are detected, requires all 600,000 residents in the red zone to be evacuated within 72 hours.
Danger: The ‘red zone’ consists of the properties that could find themselves directly in the paths of deadly pyroclastic flows – clouds of scalding gas, ash and rock which would explode down the slopes of the volcano at terrifying speeds of up to 200mph hour. Pictured, a victim of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii
At risk: Naples, with a population of around three million, has grown up in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed the city of Pompeii (pictured) in 79AD
Scientists warned in April 2015 that the world is woefully unprepared for a massive volcanic eruption that could kill millions of people and destroy much of modern society.
Experts at the European Science Foundation warned that there is between a five and 10 per cent probability of an eruption large enough to cause huge numbers of deaths, change the climate and poison the atmosphere occurring by the end of the century.
The report also rated the world’s largest eruptions according to a scale, the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI).
The volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii was around VEI5. Mount St Helen’s explosion in 1980 was also VEI5.
The report states that there have been around 20 eruptions greater than VEI5 since 1500, with only the Tambora eruption in Indonesia in 1815 reaching VEI7.
However, around 75,000 years ago the explosion of a supervolcano at the site of Lake Toba on Sumatra in Indonesia was one of the world’s largest known eruptions – rated VEI8.
It caused a global volcanic winter that lasted around 10 years and has been linked to 1,000 years of cooling.