Carbon dioxide levels around the volcanic island of Vulcano in the Aeolian archipelago off the northern coast of Sicily have risen from 80 tons to 480 tons, effectively reducing the amount of oxygen in the air, according to Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV).
Gas levels began to rise significantly on October 21, when residents began reporting breathing and health problems with their pets, often affected by lower oxygen levels before humans.
Marco Giorjani, mayor of Lipari, which includes all seven islands in the Aeolian Archipelago, signed a decree ordering the evacuation of the port area and designating a “red zone” in which non-researchers or civil protection officials are prohibited from staying.
In the so-called “yellow areas”, people can stay but will have to stay on the upper floors of their homes.
The decree also bans all non-resident visitors and tourists from the island for a period of one month.
“At this moment, the activity of the volcano gives us reason to pay attention, even if almost all the data indicate a state of stability,” he said, referring to volcanic activity. “The data that motivated my decree is the increase in gas emissions.”
He added that authorities have been monitoring the gas emissions last month and they have risen to a level potentially dangerous to humans, especially at night when they are asleep.
“My country’s citizens should live where the air is safer and healthier in this area,” he said.
According to INGV’s Palermo and Catania-Etneo Observatory website, four geochemical stations are now operating to measure carbon dioxide from the soil. The observatory has also installed seven new seismic stations (six in Vulcano and one in Lipari) to supplement those already in place. A high-resolution thermal camera was also installed to monitor soil temperatures.
According to the law, residents will be given monthly allowances of 400 euros for single families, 500 euros for families of two people, 700 euros for families of three, and 800 euros for families with more than four people to offset the costs in finding alternative accommodation.
Vulcano — named after Vulcan, the god of fire, from which the English word volcano is derived — last erupted on March 22, 1890, according to INGV.