|. Just a slice of verdant
"There are great benefits to living under
Vesuvius," jokes Tarallo, 32, whose family home lies in the zona
rossa (red zone), the area at highest risk from the volcano.
"You smoke as much as you want, drink as much as you want. Why not?"
(Related graphic: Vesuvius' danger mounts)
Concerned that too many people now crowd the
sides of the active volcano, authorities here have launched a bold
plan to prevent a repeat of the catastrophic explosion that wiped
out Pompeii and smothered thousands of its residents nearly 2,000
Authorities hope to thin the ranks of residents
so they can be evacuated when Mount Vesuvius erupts again. They are
doing this by offering cash incentives to move, demolishing the
illegal buildings that have sprouted on its flanks and establishing
a national park at its top.
It's only a matter of time before it does
erupt, scientists say.
"It won't be tomorrow, it won't be next month,
and maybe it won't be next year. But it is overdue," says Giovanni
Macedonio, director of Vesuvius Observatory, the institute
responsible for monitors apparently were evident in 79
A.D. when, in the most famous volcanic eruption in history, Vesuvius
exploded and sealed Pompeii in a 10-foot blanket of ash and
Herculaneum in a landslide of mud.
At least 3,500 are estimated to have died. The
ruins of the two towns, which archaeologists only began excavating
in the 1800s, have produced a bonanza of information on Roman
civilization as well as poignant images of mothers, babies and
couples at the moment of death. (The event was the first volcanic
eruption to be described in detail, by scholar Pliny the Younger,
whose uncle perished in it, according to experts.)
But if the precursors can signal an eruption,
they don't guarantee one. In fact, there's a 50% chance an eruption
won't occur. And therein lies the hitch: What if everyone is
evacuated and Vesuvius doesn't erupt?
In 1984, Italian officials evacuated 40,000
people in the Campi Flegrei area near Naples when a xcasinobonuses volcano there
threatened to erupt. It never did.
"Imagine evacuating 580,000 people and nothing
happens," Macedonio says. "Get it wrong, and it's the end of a