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Earthquake in Naples as epicenter recorded at Italian volcano

A women’s prison near Naples was among the buildings evacuated on Tuesday after a 4.4 magnitude earthquake struck near an active volcano in Italy.

The quake had an epicenter at the active volcano west of the southern Italian port city that forced hundreds of residents to sleep in tents or cars.

Major traffic jams were reported as people tried to flee the area.

It was the strongest in recorded history around the Phlegraean Fields, a sprawling area of ancient volcanic centers near the Tyrrhenian Sea in a zone that encompasses western neighborhoods of Naples and its suburbs, said Giuseppe De Natale, a volcanologist of Italy’s INGV National Geophysics and Volcanology Center.

During the last major event in 1984, 40,000 residents were evacuated during a period of intense seismic activity as a precaution against a feared eruption that did not occur.

People gather in a street after an earthquake in Campi Flegrei, near Naples, Italy, Tuesday, May 20, 2024 (LaPresse)

The area around the Phlegraean Fields is both seismically and volcanically active. The surface has been pushed up 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) since 2006, which is higher than prior to the last major event in 1984, but De Natale emphasized it was impossible to predict when an eruption or stronger quake might occur.

The INGV has noted an increase of seismic activity since 2022, calls have been made for evacuation plans to be put in place. The Italian Civil Protection agency said it has been working to update plans in the event of a major disaster.

The Phlegraean Fields:

At least 500,000 people live in the zone most at risk should the volcano erupt, and the INGV is calling for a governmental plan to ensure that structures can withstand a quake of at least a magnitude 5.0.

Some 140 inmates at a women’s prison in the Pozzuoli suburb were evacuated while officials check the structure for damage. A dozen apartment buildings also were evacuated for structural checks, displacing about 40 families, RAI state TV reported.

No injuries and only minor damage was reported following the Monday evening temblor.

Some 150 smaller tremors overnight kept the population on edge. At least 500 people slept in tent cities erected by the civil protection agency, while others stayed in cars.


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