VESUVIUS 2000 - Prevention of Catastrophe in the Vesuvius Area

Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty-never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Winston Churchill
Today there are about 1,000,000 people at risk in the Vesuvius area and tomorrow there may be several million people if we do not start working seriously today towards the encounter with the next explosive eruption of Vesuvius. Education of population to reduce the fear and panic, urban planning which integrates engineering measures to divert and stop pyroclastic and lava flows, and economic incentives to decrease the unemployment and reorganize the territory are essential to reduce significantly the volcanic risk and prevent an unimaginable human catastrophe during the future explosive reawakening of Vesuvius. To accomplish this requires the adoption of a volcanic risk management strategy which has the objective to prevent a catastrophe.

Intense urbanization and inadequate planning of the territory have contributed to an increasing risk of living and working in the Vesuvius area where, within a radius of 7 kilometers, live today about 1,000,000 people. The elements which determine this risk are: the population density which is one of the highest in the world, important highway and railway connections between the north and south running along the coast, the communication lines and local transportation systems which are inadequate for the mobility of the population and largely insufficient for this area at risk, the local population which is unprepared for any volcanic event and which demonstrates a progressive loss of memory of past eruptions, the concentration of unestimated archaeological and architectural resources in the area, the local administrators who have been delegating and continue to delegate to the central government the problem of governing the territory when only the local communities can give adequate answers, there is an absence of plans for the reduction of damages which could be produced by future eruptions.

Accurate forecasts of volcanic eruptions is not possible today due to the incomplete knowledge of volcanic systems and our inability to accurately model these systems (see Vesuvius Eruption Prediction). Explosive volcanoes such as Vesuvius have long periods of quiescence which may last hundreds of years and their signs of reawakening may not provide sufficient information for issuing accurate eruption predictions on time. If a volcano is adequately monitored for seismicity, deformation of the volcanic edifice and gas emissions, its activity may be forecasted only several hours to days in advance, such as the case of the eruptions of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 and Pinatubo in 1991 [1,2]. Moreover, the monitored data are not unique because of the difficulty of separating the volcanic seismic events from the tectonic ones and volcanoes do not always behave as in the past or give an adequate warning time before erupting. For Vesuvius, this would be a very thin and unacceptable margin of safety both due to the unavailability of a proper volcanic risk management strategy [3] and because it is unfeasible to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people on a very short notice and without panic from densely populated towns below the volcano where the population is not adequately prepared for an emergency.

It is easy to forecast the effects which may be produced by a large-scale eruption in the Vesuvius area and also in the city of Naples and in the entire nation. The damages from such an eruption would exceed those of A.D. 79 and 1631 when entire cities in the area were totally destroyed. The impact on socio-economic structures would be unimaginable for the dimension of the territory at risk, number of inhabitants which would be affected by the eruption, and for the concentration of human and productive resources on the territory. Today, an eruption of this magnitude would affect a territory much larger than that around Vesuvius involving at least 3,000,000 people because of the panic which would be diffused among the population. An evacuation alarm would probably be given too late in order to avoid a false alarm and expenditures of large national resources.

Given our inability to predict on time the eruptions of explosive volcanoes such as Vesuvius and evacuate on short notice hundreds of thousands of uneducated people about the risk who may not even want to leave their homes, political consequences caused by evacuation to large distances, large costs involved in false alarms, and possible destruction of the Vesuvius culture and speculation caused by the evacuation, it should be clear that it is necessary to abandon the management of a catastrophe as the only possible way to reduce the risk as proposed in the Vesuvius Emergency Plan [3] and substitute it with a plan for the prevention of a catastrophe and development of the area [4,5]. The volcanic risk in the Vesuvius area may be concretely reduced only if governmental and nongovernmental organizations collaborate with the population at risk, and if economic incentives are provided for the reorganization of productive resources on the territory. Such an objective may only be achieved after solid scientific, technologic, sociologic, educational, and urban planning feasibility studies. But before this can be accomplished it is necessary to establish a serious debate culture involving local, national, and European Union leaders as well as an interdisciplinary scientific community and the population of the area. My experience is that many Italian and foreign volcanologists, Italian government and local administrators, and the managers of the European Commission do not fully comprehend the scientific and practical values of supporting a project on preventing a catastrophe in the Vesuvius area (see Institutional Negligence). The ultimate goal of civil nations must be the prevention of catastrophes, and it is very sad to see that there has been a very serious erosion of this maxim when applied to Vesuvius.

VESUVIUS 2000 has the central objective of providing the basic elements or guidelines to reduce the volcanic risk in the Vesuvius area through an interdisciplinary effort involving, engineers, geophysicists, seismologists, physicists, computer scientists, historians, urban planners, sociologists, educators, telecommunication experts, economists, environmentalists, civil protection volunteers, and the exposed population. As such, VESUVIUS 2000 aims at creating a multitude of different options for the Vesuvius area which are necessary for taking decisions by the population whether to live and work on the territory or how to behave during the future reawakening of the volcano.

The principal objectives of VESUVIUS 2000 are:

Current state-of-the-art computer modeling results of the distribution of pyroclastic flows (high density flows of volcanic debris) on the slopes of Vesuvius in the direction of Tyrrhenian Sea without and with engineering measures aimed at retarding or stopping the destructive powers of large- and medium-scale eruptions are available in References 4, 7 and 13. Using the volcanological and geophysical data of Vesuvius [7-9], these computer simulations were produced by first physically modeling magma ascent along the conduits to establish the conditions of gas and pyroclasts at the vents and subsequently using these conditions in a complex physical model of the eruption column [10,11]. The dense mixtures of volcanic material produced during large- and medium-scale explosive eruptions of Vesuvius cannot buoyantly rise as plinian columns but collapse at about 2-3 kilometers above the vent after the jets lose their vertical momenta. Subsequently, the collapsed columns build pyroclastic flows which move along the slopes of the volcano at about 100 kilometers per hour at 1000 C. At about 5 minutes after the column collapse of a large-scale eruption, the pyroclastic flow reaches the Tyrrhenian Sea at 7 kilometers from the vent (Figure a), and the flow of such an eruption cannot even be stopped by the 1000 meters-high Monte Somma relief on the North of the volcano [8]. The pyroclastic flow hazard at Vesuvius may be, however, significantly reduced by break-in-slopes and barriers constructed at appropriate places on the slopes of the volcano. These topographic changes and engineering measures change the radial motion of energetic pyroclastic flows and transfer their energy to vertical buoyant clouds (coignimbrite or phoenix plumes). By constructing 30 meters-high barriers at 2.5 and 4.5 kilometers from the vent of Vesuvius is sufficient to stop at the second barrier an energetic pyroclastic flow from a medium-scale eruption (Figure b)and thus save many thousands of people who live near the sea. A much more dramatic effect of the topographic changes and barriers on the slopes of Vesuvius can be shown for a large-scale eruption (Figure c). This eruption produces a pyroclastic flow which without engineering intervention measures reaches the Tyrrhenian Sea in about 5 minutes, but with the measures the flow is effectively stopped by the second barrier above the modern day highway at about 5 kilometers from the vent. A combination of barriers and shelters on the lower slopes of the volcano can be effectively integrated into parks or urban-planned structures for the purpose of protecting some population or give it more time to evacuate.

The results from computer simulations without barriers are consistent with the available data [6-9] of past eruptions of Vesuvius. Extensive computer simulations of large- and medium- scale eruptions with and without barriers, which are also available in a videocassette entitled "Encounter with Vesuvius" (see Publication 6 and Simulations ), have also proved very useful for educators, school children, and population of the Vesuvius area who are very anxious to become informed about the risk and to actively participate in producing volcanic risk reduction guidelines [12,13]. It is, however, very unfortunate for the Vesuvius area population and for the volcanological science in particular: (1) that the Vesuvius area administrators do not appear to understand what it means to reduce the volcanic risk through an re-organization of the territory; (2) that the European Union has been unable to evaluate the scientific and practical value of VESUVIUS 2000 and provide the necessary support to begin working seriously on the objectives which are impossible to realize with local and national resources; and (3) that the proponents of the Emergency Plan for the Vesuvius area (Italian volcanologists) have been unable to support a project which allows for establishing a very high reliability of such a plan.

Volcanic risk management at Vesuvius includes a very high socio-political content for any proposal or initiative calling upon for the reorganization of the territory and replacement of classical volcanological methods aimed at risk reduction in the densely populated region, because this produces conflicts with those who have been managing the territory and the risk up to now and permitted abusive urbanization and total ignorance of the population about this risk (see results from a population survey below, publication NEWSLETTER Vol.2/2). This coupled with the fact that the volcanological resources in Italy and at the European Union levels are politically managed implies that the population of the Vesuvius area has no chance of receiving the help that it needs in the foreseeable future.


1. Swanson, D.A., Casadevall, T.J., Dzurisin, D., Malone, S.D., Newhall, C.G., & Weaver, C.S., Predicting eruptions of Mount St. Helens, June 1980 through December 1982, Science 221, 1369-1376, 1983.

2. Pinatubo Volcano Observatory Team, Lessons from a major eruption: Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines, Eos Transactions, American Geophysical Union 72, 545, 552-553, 555, December 3, 1991.

3. Pianificazione Nazionale D'Emergenza Dell'Area Vesuviana, Dipartimento della Protezione Civile, Italy, September, 1995.

4. Dobran, F., Cronaca di un'eruzione annunciata, Sapere 11, 11-16, 1994.

5. Dobran, F., Preparing for future eruptions of Vesuvius, GVES Newsletter 1/2, Global Volcanic and Environmental Systems Simulation, Rome, 11-16, December, 1994.

6. Dobran, F., Global Volcanic Simulation of Vesuvius, Giardini, Italy, 1993.

7. Dobran, F., Prospects for the global volcanic simulation of Vesuvius, Proc. Large Explosive Eruptions 112, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome, 33-41, 1994.

8. Dobran, F., Neri, A. & Todesco, M., Pyroclastic flow hazard at Vesuvius, Nature 367, 551-554, 1994.

9. Santacroce, R. (ed) Somma Vesuvius 114, CNR Quaderni, Rome, 1987.

10. Dobran, F., Neri, A. & Macedonio, G., Numerical simulation of collapsing volcanic columns, J. Geophys. Res. 98, 4231- 4259 1993.

11. Dobran, F., COLUMN - A computer program for the analysis of two-dimensional and transient gas-pyroclasts mixtures in the atmosphere, SYNTEC, New York, 1991.

12. Dobran, F. & Luongo, G. VESUVIUS 2000: project summary and field work, Global Volcanic and Environmental Systems Simulation, Rome, 1995.

13. Dobran, F., VESUVIUS 2000, GVES Newsletter 2/1, Global Volcanic and Environmental Systems Simulation, Napoli, 3, December, 1995.

Main Selection?

Failed National Emergency Plan for the Vesuvius Area

Non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa
(Let us not speak of them; but look, and pass on).
Dante, Inferno
Deportation of Vesuvians The Emergency Evacuation Plan for the Vesuvius area [3], promoted by the Italian volcanologists within the National and European Union governments in 1995, assumes that an eruption of Vesuvius will be predicted at least two weeks before an eruption and that about 700,000 people can be evacuated from the area to different places all over Italy. The plan is supposed to manage and not prevent a catastrophe in the Vesuvius area, but fails on scientific, engineering, socio-politic, and economic grounds. This plan prevented the realization of VESUVIUS 2000 objectives and failed to achieve an acceptance among the local population, including the government officials. The Vesuvius evacuation plan has apparently served its purpose to promote a special interest group of volcanologists and is no longer needed, because it is no longer being promoted on the territory by its architects.

The Plan is scientifically unfeasible because the most probable and maximum future volcanic events in the Vesuvius area are not justified; the unprocessed data from volcano monitoring are not being made available to the scientists and, therefore, precludes a proper scientific evaluation of threshold limits to be used for issuing different alarm and evacuation orders; and the Plan does not indicate who will be able to forecast the eruption at least three weeks before. The engineering reliability of the Plan is not justified because it does not account for the functioning of communication and transportation systems preceding and during a volcanic crisis, such as traffic flow, electrical power, telephones, fuel distributors, transport vehicles along escape routs, railway tracks and signals, etc.; exit modalities from towns (who leaves first); and for the effects of earthquakes which could produce collapses blocking the evacuation routes. The socio-political reliability is not justified in the Plan because the local and national political effects, "destruction" of the Vesuvius culture, consultation and decision by the population to remain or leave the area, and the speculation caused by the evacuation to faraway places have not even been discussed. The economic reliability of the Plan has not been calculated, such as the cost of a false alarm (at least one billion dollars!), cost of evacuation and re-entry, cost to avoid speculation and protect the area during and after an evacuation, cost to maintain the command and control centers in the area, cost associated with host regions which would have to house the evacuees for an undetermined time, and the cost of making the Plan reliable when the proponents of the Plan refuse to discuss it at scientific meetings and in public. The Plan was a perfect alibi for the Vesuvius area administrators for not considering volcanic risk reduction high on their agenda, because it left this task to the central government that been unable to define and implement an adequate project for seriously reducing the risk of future eruptions of Vesuvius.

Considering hundreds of thousands of people at risk in the Vesuvius area who are very skeptical about any proposed plan for the territory, it is essential that a volcanic risk reduction plan be first thoroughly debated by scientists and population before being implemented. An Emergency Plan for the Vesuvius area should be based on interdisciplinary systems integration and it cannot be left in the hands of any special-interest groups whose primary objectives are inconsistent with the best interests of several million people in the area.

The Emergency Plan for the Vesuvius area was politicized in 1995 to counteract the interdisciplinary VESUVIUS 2000 initiative, and its proponents (volcanologists from Italian National Volcanic Group (GNV), Osservatorio Vesuviano, Protezione Civile) have refused to respond in public to the charges that the Plan is unreliable from scientific, social, cultural, economic, and political points of view. These charges were also made at an international volcanological meeting in Mexico (January, 1997) where the proponents of the Plan were unable to defend the charges.

The volcanologists who undersigned the Emergency Plan (Italian Civil Protection document No. 247, February 1, 1996), F. Barberi, L. Civetta, P. Gasparini, F. Innocenti, L. Lirer, G. Orsi, T. Paresci, M. Rosi, R. Santacroce and L. Villari, may one day be held accountable for not only failing to make this plan workable, but also for ultimately abandoning it and contributing to the non-realization of VESUVIUS 2000 objectives.

Main Selection?

Citizens of the Vesuvius Area on the Civil Protection

G. Luongo on the Civil Protection: I insist, that evacuation plan is no good.

An intervention that does not serve the Civil Protection
By: Carlo Avvisati, Il Mattino, June 21, 1996.

Professor, what do you think of the alarm launched by the English newspapers on the risk that the seismic tomography experiments may have on Vesuvio?

If the concern is only of this, or not to pick on the dog who sleeps, then I think that it is only to make fun of it. This is not, however, the critic to make on such a project. If P. Gasparini affirms that the (Emergency Evacuation Plan) plan cannot predict the times of an eventual eruption and that these times will remain for a long time a mystery, then these interventions serve the academic research and scientific speculation but not the Civil Protection. The management of the seismic tomography project which cost more than two million dollars should not be given to the Civil Protection but to the competent scientific research organizations. The fact of having inserted this project into a Civil Protection program creates a great confusion.

But what does our Civil Protection need?

It is necessary to have elements which are certain and which also come from the scientific research, because these cannot be provided by the Civil Protection. The Undersecretary for Civil Protection F. Barberi is a researcher, and a researcher tends to deviate Civil Protection funds on research for his priorities. This research needs to be done, but with funding from competent government agencies.

Is the Civil Protection capable of confronting an eventual evacuation in the Vesuvius area?

No. One cannot manage 600,000 people with the nonexistent preparation and without the knowledge of the plan nine months after its existence.

But is the plan a secret?

It's held hidden. Nobody knows of it.


Because it is too stupid.

In what sense?

In the sense that it does not have valid technical and quantitative elements. If such a plan were widely exposed it would be easy to understand that the risk levels indicated in the plan are "dancers", or objects to change depending on the whims of its proponents. Nobody is able to control the validity of this plan: it is not readily available and it has not been subjected to the scrutiny of the scientific community. Because of the recent seismic activity, the risk level in the area passed to a higher state but one cannot thrust the persons who hide the data from researchers.

What should the population know?

Bad data should be communicated to local administrations and research entities on the territory, such that Vesuvio can be watched by all and that all can contribute their ideas without alarming nobody in order to be able to understand how we should behave during an eruption.

But the publication of data may create an alarm.

In that case there are two ways out: to speak or to operate. Or not to speak at all when not operating, because nothing is being done in reality to guarantee the security to the people. Nothing is being said what is being done and nothing concretely is being done to reduce the effects of an eruption. They apparently have all of the data that nobody can examine. It is an unbearable situation.

And thus, who to defend?

Nobody. The institutions do not respect their roles and the interests of the citizens. This is a grave fact. The civil protection managers need to expose the data and not their interpretation.

Director of Osservatorio Vesuviano, L. Civetta, on the Civil Protection: This is a problem beyond my competence.

But here continues the abuse (Interview with L. Civetta, Director of Osservatorio Vesuviano).
By: Fr. Erb, La Repubblica, May 5, 1997.

It will not be easy to move 600,000 persons in a country which has a difficulty to settle several thousands of Albenian refuges ...

It will not be easy, but there is no alternative. In Campania there is no sufficient space.

In any case it will be dramatic to move many people from the surrounding communities, given the chaotic urban planning situation.

The problem of viability is certainly most difficult. The coastal towns grew disproportionally where during the last 20 years proliferated a shameful abuse of the area.

Is there a continuation of abusive building?

Not like before, because the physical space has been reduced. But small buildings are still constructed and I hope that this construction will also stop.

How are the relations between you and local administrations? At the beginning they were very difficult because we were accused of not consulting them and discouraging investments. Now, we are better understanding each other.

When in one, ten, or hundred years there will be an eruption, there will remain little of these towns. Are you also working beyond the emergency?

This is a problem beyond my competence.

Can you at least tell me if it will be possible for everyone to re-enter into their former homes?

I belief that this will not be possible. This is an area where many people cannot live.

From this interview one can pose the following questions:

1. Which scientific, cultural, social, economic, political, and democratic criteria were used to state that in Campania there is no space to redistribute the population from the Vesuvius area?

2. What good is an Emergency Plan which does not consider conditions after an eruption and return to normality?

3. What criteria will be employed for the compilation of "Schindler's list" of Vesuvius area citizens?

Mayor of San Sebastiano al Vesuvio: Caution was needed.

Excerpts from the letter of Mayor G. Capasso of October 2, 1995 addressed to Prime Minister and other local and national officials responsible for civil protection.

I will not challenge the rigor of the analysis of the scientific assumptions on which the Emergency Plan is based and leave this dispute to the volcanologists. I will, however, dispute the adopted method of communicating the plan to 600,000 citizens to inform them of their security and future.

The plan should have been presented to the mass media only after its details have been fully exposed and defined for the citizens, because in the case of an eruption the exodus will need to be controlled by the police and volunteers.

In order for the scientific information to arrive to the people it needs to be mediated through the mass media, instead of having a television reporter, using a civil protection helicopter, announcing to the population that Vesuvius is about to erupt. Because of this, my office received more that 3,000 phone calls and the mothers began looking for their children and preparing for the eruption. Some of these questions were: In how many days will this cataclysm arrive? Is it true that the destruction will be total? That we will not be able anymore to return to our homes? That we will be transported to Veneto or Sicily? That all will be buried under tens of meters of ash?

The emergency plan is based on the 1631 event while ignoring other possible types of eruptions and telling the population that nobody can predict the eruption.

In presenting the plan, the undersecretary Barberi did not adopt the necessary caution for such a delicate matter that is expected of a government representative.

How to behave then: Ignore the problem? Consider Vesuvio as a good or bad vulcano? Continue to crowd an area where the man upset the area more than the destructive power of the volcano? Certainly not.

The population which lives in the shadow of Vesuvio replaced the fear with indifference, and that is why a civil protection plan requires to consider the psychosis of masses. The only thing which the plan accomplished was to produce fear which generates two irrational behaviors: the escape or the resignation, both of which do not contribute to the evaluation of the problem and the formation of trust between the citizens and authorities.

The problem is therefore not to propose an evacuation plan, which should only be the last item in a chain, but to explain to the population how to cohabit with the volcano in the absence of a territorial plan which indicates to the future generations where to construct. It is necessary to promote a new culture, starting from the schools, that allows for the formation of an "autoconscience".

Mayor of Torre del Greco on the Emergency Plan for the Vesuvius area.

Excerpts from the letter of Mayor A. Cuttolo, dated February 2, 1996 addressed to the office of civil protection of the prefecture of Napoli.

An emergency plan for such a high risk zone must certainly involve the local and state authorities and your note on this issue is very positive. We cannot ignore, however, how the Plan was presented by the Undersecretary Barberi and the prefecture, first to the press on September 25, 1995 and then to the Mayors of Vesuvius area on October 6, 1995, which undermined considerably the credibility of our Civil Protection Office.

The Plan, in spite of four years of work by prestigious individuals, did not define the substantial points for the management of the emergency. For example, after six months from the presentation of the Plan we do not yet know the criteria to be followed for transporting our citizens to Sardegna and Sicily.

In the case of an alarm, the Emergency Plan allows for the general evacuation of the population without specifying the risk caused by the panic caused by sudden events, such as by gas emissions and earthquakes. Even in these situations the scenarios caused by fires produced from burning gas pumps and trapped victims in buildings can be dramatic, in contrast to the past activities of the vulcano where the citizens remained at their places to remove the ash from roofs and put off the fires. Thanks to the absence of external volcanic events, the Vesuvius area produced an uncontrolled urbanization where thousands of people constructed in the proximity of the crater.

The Evacuation Plan risks to be legitimate because it tends to institutionalize the absurd and dangerous belief of an eruption which is sudden and very destructive. In this respect it is useful to recall that the urbanized volcanic area emergency plans from other nations provide, in addition to the information on how the population behaved during the past eruptions, a gradual removal of the population.

The Emergency Plan is also inadequate because it is only based on the assumed reference eruption of 1631 which destroyed a large part of the territory and ignores other possible events which could have a large effect on the population. It is also necessary to stress that an alarm situation can persist for years and that the economic and social damages of an evacuation can be unacceptable. By having a single ruinous generalized evacuation as the only instrument of emergency it is not unreasonable to hypothesize that its alarm signals will be underevaluated. In such a situation of considerable uncertainty, it is also not unreasonable to hypothesize the withholding of the information from the population about the true state of the volcano before it begins to show external activity. From the other end, a "useless" immediate evacuation would produce a mistrust between the population and civil protection authorities and structures responsible for monitoring the volcano.

The video "Rischio Vesuvio", produced by the Department of Civil Protection to "educate" the population creates serious perplexities, since it was not pre-screened for its contents by the local administrators before it was destined by the Undersecretary of Civil Protection to be distributed in all of the schools on the territory. In our views, this video not only contains some inappropriate phrases on the prediction of the eruption and invitation to the "calm", but it also ends by presenting the eruption of Vesuvius like a sudden and destructive event which poisons those educational campaigns aimed at cohabiting with Vesuvio that this administration has been promoted for years in our schools.

Is is suggested that the Vesuvius area communities become involved in a real emergency plan.

Citizens of the Vesuvius Area on Civil Protection.

Letter from several hundred citizens of the Vesuvius area sent to the Italian and European Union Parliaments in February and July, 1996.

We the citizens of the Vesuvius area are writing to you directly in the hope that you will personally take action to make known the TRUTH and promote an adequate project to reduce the volcanic risk on our territory, because those who have managed this risk up to now have kept us in total ignorance. This did not allow us to acquire a Vesuvius consciousness for the purpose of being able to choose whether to live and work on the territory or move elsewhere. Some volcanic risk reduction initiatives have been diffused on the territory and in national and international newspapers, but many citizens of the Vesuvius area don't know of them; even our administrators do not appear to understand which initiative is better for the territory or don't want to confront the problem in a responsible manner. It is unfortunate that it is impossible to reduce the volcanic risk ignorance, first because the mass media do not let us know of alternative proposals that exist on the territory, second because our administrators don't want or are unable to evaluate them, and finally those who have been managing the risk want to keep us in ignorance. It is thus necessary to bring the Vesuvius problem to the local and national attention, with the objective of discussing this problem in the open and forcing those who are administering us to assume their responsibilities in our best interests. We are asking, how come that the volcanologists who proposed this plan and failed in volcanic risk management (because we are kept in the most absolute ignorance) now promise to be truly able to manage it in the future; we are also asking why the mass media do not investigate the TRUTH about the risk of Vesuvius. As citizens we have the right to know why millions are being spent from our taxes without producing concrete answers for us. We also wish to know why our administrators and representatives within the national and European Parliaments do not begin assuming their responsibilities. We hope that you will help us find concrete answers in order to be able to choose whether to live and work on the territory or elsewhere before a catastrophe, produced more from the non- commitment of our administrators, representatives in Parliament, and those who manage the volcanic risk than from the eruption itself.

Vesuvius: What Education?

By: Tullio Pucci, Ercolano

We do not wish to make a philologic discussion, although in this case the philology enters, probably in a sort of fatal but significant coincidence, from the moment where "education" means exactly "conduct outside", "un-educate". The Emergency Plan for the Vesuvius Area, better known as the Evacuation Plan, is a gigantic and improbable project of deportation, more or less forced and until now supported through "sublime" messages that suggest an opportunity for a voluntary exodus (but certainly not financially supported) of many people for the purpose to render more credible or at least less incredible its realization.

In spite of this, the Plan is certainly a cultural plan that wipes the slate clean of political responsibilities that produced abusive building and high population densities. These are, therefore, the responsibilities which are being silenced by loading them on the backs of Vesuvius area citizens and making these citizens pay twice for their choice of residence and life.

What is thus the education of the Emergency Plan? That of a passive resignation, that which waits in fear for the event, that which produces a flight of those who can afford, that which separates the families during an emerging danger, that which deports every municipality to different Italian regions for an indefinite time. This brings us to think of Redskins forced by the blue soldiers into reservations in order to wait for a just redistribution of the territory which never came.

If this is the culture of the Emergency Plan, if its education suggests a philosophy of improbable techniques of realization, if the risk is that of the destruction of our culture of people, of our economy, of our history, then we will not be a part of it!

Main Selection?

Vesuvius: International Appeals, IAVCEI, Dante's Peak, Seismic Tomography and European Union

Io venni in loco d'ogne luce muto
(I came into a place void of all light),
che mugghia come fa mar per tempesta
(which bellows like sea in tempest),
se da contrari venti e' combattuto
(when it is combated of warring winds).
Dante, Inferno
International Appeals for Vesuvius

For the anniversary of the August 24, 79 eruption of Vesuvius which destroyed Pompeii and other surrounding towns, F. Dobran and G. Luongo launched an appeal for Vesuvius on August 20, 1995, aimed at producing an international attention that an eruption of this magnitude occurring today would produce an unprecedented human and environmental catastrophe (Publication 5). Unfortunately, this appeal did not produce any concrete actions by any of the national institutions and only created a conflict with conformists. Such an international appeal was launched again in August of 1996 and 1997 and December 1998 via Internet in the hope that it will be more successful. In collaboration with more than 50 European scientists we also submitted a proposal on Vesuvius to the European Union for funding within its 1994-1998 Environment Programme but failed to obtain any support (see below).

IAVCEI (International Association of Volcanology and Geochemistry of the Earth's Interior)

IAVCEI is sponsoring frequent volcanological meetings with agendas which include decade volcanoes such as Vesuvius, but is failing to address the issues on this volcano in any concrete manner, probably because some proponents of the evacuation plan have in the past been active within this organization which elects its officers through a nondemocratic process. During the 1995 IAVCEI's sponsored meeting in Rome G. Luongo and F. Dobran proposed a scientific debate on Vesuvius but it proponents did not even show up for the debate, including the IAVCEI officers.

Workshop on Vesuvius: September, 1996

Responsibility of a free man excludes complicity with those who deny freedom. Carlos Fuentes
The volcanologists from Italian National Volcanic Group who convinced the Italian Civil Protection to propose the unreliable Emergency Plan for the Vesuvius area organized in September of 1996 a workshop on Vesuvius but rejected our contribution entitled Volcanic risk reduction and development of the Vesuvius area on the project VESUVIUS 2000 by stating that they "do not wish to discuss the social issues". We complained for this discrimination to the executive committee of IAVCEI which supported this workshop but did not receive any reply. We also protested to a subcommittee of IAVCEI dealing with volcanic risk mitigation at the international volcanological meeting held in January, 1997, in Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) without achieving any result. At this Mexico meeting, even a geologist from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported on the "success" of the September, 1996, Naples workshop, without reporting that the video of the Emergency Plan was banned for presentation in the Vesuvius area schools for being culturally too offensive.

From these experiences it is clear that the organizers of the Naples workshop on Vesuvius and their supporters within the executive committee of IAVCEI wanted to distance from the meeting all of those who may provide a critic of their work and use the invited USGS participants to promote the Plan.

IAVCEI Meeting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (January, 1997)

The volcanologists L. Civetta from Osservatorio Vesuviano in Naples and R. Santacroce from University of Pisa presented at this meeting the Emergency Plan for the Vesuvius Area and were openly criticized by F. Dobran for promoting an unreliable scientific, socio-economic, cultural, and political plan that could not even be defended by other volcanologists. It is thus very disturbing that the mitigation of volcanic risk in densely populated areas cannot even be properly addressed by many of those responsible for this mitigation (Italian volcanologists, Osservatorio Vesuviano, Protezione Civile). See Mitigation of Volcanic Disasters in Densely Populated Areas.

Dante's Peak

G. Luongo wrote in Vol.3/1 of GVES NEWSLETTER (see Dante's Peak) that the proponents of the Emergency Plan for the Vesuvius Area not only did not take advantage of the movie Dante's Peak but also acted in opposite direction by labeling its message as being inconsistent, because of the subjective nature of decisions leading to volcanic risk management. One may, therefore, wonder whether United States Geological Survey consultants on the movie or Italian Civil Protection are wrong on the central issues surrounding volcanic risk management, or whether some of these volcanologists practice double standards by using one strategy at home for public consumption and another internationally to obtain a legitimacy at home.

Seismic Tomography on Vesuvius

F. Dobran wrote in Vol.3/1 of GVES NEWSLETTER (see What is the Use of Seismic Tomography Experiments on Vesuvius?) that the seismic tomography experiments on Vesuvius which were principally initiated because of him in 1992, because of a need to define the internal structure of volcano to develop the Global Volcanic Simulation for Vesuvius, failed to produce any data for this purpose, since its proponents (Science, 274, 592-594, 1996) did not conduct an adequate preliminary study aimed at establishing the possible dimensions of internal structures of volcano, such as the existence and size of magma reservoir. The Italian Civil Protection spent almost 2 million dollars for these experiments that were coordinated by the Italian National Volcanic Group researchers.

European Union

Permanent reality is not to be found in the parts of the existence, but in the whole. Buddha
Following are excerpts from March 25, 1996 letter to
Mr. Jacques Santer, President, European (Commission) Union
Rue de la Loi 200, B-1049 Brussels, BELGIUM

Mr. Gray's justification for the Commission's rejection of our proposal on Vesuvius is based on, what he called, a "recognized high level of expertise". The highly subjective rating of our proposal produced by this "expertise" demonstrates, however, the "expertise's" complete lack of knowledge of the central issues associated with risk management in the Vesuvius area and gross underestimation of the scientific results which the team members proposed to accomplish and are able to achieve on the project. My letter to Mr. Casale, dated 31 October, 1995, as well as subsequent letters from other proposal team members, amply demonstrates that the review from the Commission's "expertise" has no scientific validity and that, therefore, the officers of the Natural Hazards Unit of DGXII should provide us with a scientifically sound review before we accept the rejection of VESUVIUS 2000 for funding by the Commission. That this has not yet happened and that Mr. Casale and Mr. Gray insist on accepting a subjective review from the Commission's "expertise" implies that there are deeper motives within the Commission aimed at suppressing our initiative. We tried to help the Commission by providing an appendix in our proposal which contains supporting letters from international volcanological authorities who are individuals with integrity and scientific prestige. The recommendations of these authorities to the Commission to support the interdisciplinary research VESUVIUS 2000 were, however, outweighted by a subjective review of only one very short paragraph. The VESUVIUS 2000 proposal was prepared by more than 50 European scientists, many of whom have real-life experience in the Vesuvius area and better than anybody else understand the real scientific and socio-political issues in the area. We invited almost every European volcanologist of stature to join our project (letter dated 6 February, 1995), but many remained silent. A failure of the Commission to professionally address our proposal brings me to the conclusion that the Commission does not want to contribute towards the resolution of the Vesuvius problem and that it is using its "expertise" as a screen to avoid a direct confrontation with the problem.

It is a real tragedy that the Commission has been unable to support a highly relevant and timely volcanological project on Vesuvius while it supports with tens of millions of dollars many European volcano projects. By turning down an interdisciplinary research project on Vesuvius based on subjective reviews the Commission has not only made a mockery out of the scientific method of pursuing research projects within the Commission, but it also demonstrated no sensitivity to several million people whose future depends on responsible actions of powerful institutions. Is the Commission going to support in the future only those initiatives at Vesuvius which view the volcano as being just another pile of rocks and those individuals who will pretend to work towards a reduction of volcanic risk by trying to copy a project which the Commission found unsuitable to support today?

On the VESUVIUS 2000 project we put together the most competent international body of individuals who were willing to work and cannot now accept subjective judgements of our proposal from those who lack a complete knowledge of the issues in the Vesuvius area, are purposely trying to underevaluate our initiative because of its great scientific and practical values, or do not respect a difficult effort in putting together an interdisciplinary team involving geologists, economists, physical scientists, sociologists, educators, engineers and the population of the Vesuvius area. From this experience it is easy to conclude that we lack astute individuals at the Commission's level who know how to evaluate and take advantage of great societal problems and become the true leaders of the European Union.

Copy to the Members of the Commission

K. Miert, M. Oreja, M. Wulf-Mathies, E. Bonino, L. Brittan, H. Broek, A. Gradin, N. Kinnock, Y.T. de Silguy, M. Marin, J. D. Pinheiro, E. Cresson, M. Monti, E. Liikanen, M. Bangemann, P. Flynn, R. Bjerregaard, F. Fischler, C. Papoltsis

Reply from the European Commission

Based on our letters to the Commission we received several replies where it is stated that The Commission's position on Vesuvius 2000 is therefore in accordance with that of the volcanology community in Europe. Considering the fact that the Commission is supporting with tens of millions of dollars the volcanological research on many other European volcanoes which pose no real threat to significant number of people, we took up the issue of this research with the European Parliament, but so far have not received any concrete responses. Those who are obstructing the needed work on Vesuvius must be held accountable for their actions.

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GVES Membership, Publications, Mass Media, and Services


Global Volcanic and Environmental Systems Simulation (GVES) is a nonprofit organization aimed at promoting education, scientific research, and methods for quantifying the environmental impacts produced from volcanic eruptions or changes of the environment. GVES is open to all who wish to contribute to its objectives. To become an ordinary, supporting, institutional, or honorary member please write a letter to the President, Global Volcanic and Environmental Systems Simulation (GVES), P.zza Matteotti, CP 418, 80133 Napoli, Italy, stating the type of your contributions. You can also send mail to

GVES' primary mission of contributing towards the development of a methodology for the prevention of a catastrophe and destruction of culture and environment caused by a future eruption of Vesuvius can be applied to many other volcanoes in the world and we would be especially pleased to work openly with those who face similar problems elsewhere and who are willing to contribute resources towards the realization of such a methodology.


The publications are available for a nominal fee and are free to supporting members.

Mass media.


The image below shows a smooth surface of Etna produced by a mathematical algorithm from a noisy topographic data. Such a surface was used to produce lava flow simulations (see Publication 4).

Reconstructed image of Etna

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We plan to repeat the voyage of Pliny on August 24 to promote the objectives of VESUVIUS 2000 in the Vesuvius area. If you wish to participate please respond to or to the postal address of GVES in Napoli (P.zza Matteotti, CP418, 80133 Napoli, Italy). Our return route from the Vesuvius area can include Sorrento, Capri and Ischia.
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Computer Simulation of the A.D. 79 Pompeii Eruption

The following image and associated simulations illustrate the collapse of a volcanic column produced from a Plinian eruption of Vesuvius, such as during the A.D. 79 eruption which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. The column rises about 3 km above the vent and collapses producing a pyroclastic flow which reaches the sea in about 5 minutes. The red and blue colors show high and low temperatures or concentrations of pyroclasts. The clip is an excerpt from the video Encounter with Vesuvius.

from  simulations ===> MPEG movie?

================> QT movie?

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