Berger, Rita

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					                             Berger, Rita Jane
                                      Facing the Fire
              Vesuvia and the Evacuation of Vesuvius Towns
     Faculty Mentor: Roger Macfarlane, Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature

When I began my study of the Mount Vesuvius region, I wanted to learn if the current policies
for the future evacuation of the volcano were appropriate and to understand the opinions of the
people whom they affect. I also wanted to investigate the preparatory measures other than the
evacuation procedures and find out how they were progressing. Thirdly, I hoped to delve into
the criticisms of the current policies. Once I had gathered my information, I planned to publish a
paper evaluating those facets and bringing the problem to the eye of a new audience.

A large part of the foundation work for this project took place in 2005, when I did research and
put together a paper called “Facing the Fire: The People of Mount Vesuvius,” also under the
mentorship of Dr. Roger Macfarlane. That paper focused on the reactions to the eruptions of
1906 and 1944 as well as the general sentiments of the Italians toward the volcano and the ideas
of the Vesuvia plan. In supplement to that background, I returned to Italy in May 2006 as I had
planned and spent time gathering surveys and conducting more research.

The primary sources I had hoped to find about the Vesuvia plan, the official documents regarding
its legislation and purposes, I did find. Most of these sources were online, the main one being
the Vesuvia project website. It talked about the evacuation procedures, provided current
population statistics for Vesuvius’ Red Zone towns, and discussed the plan offering the people in
the Red Zone 30,000 euro to move from their homes. I got more online sources for population
statistics—which I wanted in order to see how the population was moving, as the reduction of
the population around the volcano is one of the Civil Protection Agency’s primary preparatory
measures—with the help of Dr. Girolamo de Simone. The primary sources I had hoped to find
about people’s reactions to the plan, however, were much more difficult to locate; finding more
of these would be a good way to deepen this research project. I was not able to find any indexes
for the newspapers in Naples, and trying to find articles by flipping through pages around the
most likely dates were not fruitful. As a result, I had to refer to my previous, secondary research
for a lot of my information about reactions to the project; my survey group was not big enough to
draw statistically sound generalizations. If I were to attempt this study again, I could take a
simple random sample of a Red Zone town’s population and try to survey that. Such a process
would give me much more primary evidence than I presently have.

Of the six surveys I intended to take, however, I did obtain five. Obtaining the consenting
signatures to accompany them proved difficult—Italians do not seem to be as concerned with
authorizing documents as Americans are—but I did my best to ensure that everyone involved
understood the purpose and future uses for the surveys. For the most part, the survey results
confirmed my hypothesis that the Italian citizens are not overly frightened by Vesuvius’ next
eruption. They also do not appear to value much the Vesuvia plan for permanent relocation away
from the volcano, nor does it seem like they will pay much attention to the government’s planned
structure for the evacuation. The endangered subjects do intend to evacuate, should the Vesuvius
Observatory announce an alert, but none of them meant to do so according to the method
outlined in Vesuvia. They care far more about staying with their families and their homeland
than about trying to circumvent possible dangers in the future.

These survey results matched well with the general opinions and conclusions I gathered in my
outside research. I had thought, prior to my deeper investigation, that the current policies toward
Vesuvius were effective and that, for the most part, they addressed the concerns of the situation.
I still believe that some of the policies could be effective, such as the attempt to limit population
growth through building restrictions and the creation of a national park around Mount Vesuvius.
However, the common flaunting of those restrictions and the apparent tendency of officials not
to execute the laws and punishments associated them may undermine much of the legislation’s
functionality. Similar problems plague the future evacuation plan. There are numerous groups,
some of them with histories of clashing, designated to conduct the evacuation. The allocation of
refugees is organized according to townships, which would divide extended families. Those
potential divisions are particularly serious, given the extreme dedication most Italians feel
toward their families, and they make it more likely that the citizens will attempt to take care of
themselves instead of following the established plan. The potential for chaos in the evacuation
of 600,000 people would be tremendous under the best circumstances, but such circumstances as
these make the prospect especially grim.

Some other criticisms of the Vesuvia project include protests about the plan only preparing for
one eventuality: complete destruction of the area by an explosive, sub-Plinian eruption
comprising pyroclastic activity as well as possible lava flows. This protest is not as weighty,
though, as the scorn for the relocation program. The government could not very well prepare for
a lesser kind of eruption when it is next to impossible to predict the timing of an eruption, much
less its magnitude. If the Civil Protection Agency did not evacuate the Red Zone prior to the
eruption—which is the only way to deal with a pyroclastic eruption—and the eruption did prove
to be explosive, almost everyone in the Red Zone could be dead within fifteen minutes. The
relocation program, on the other hand, is one of Vesuvia’s main tenets; the Civil Protection
Agency is offering 30,000 euro to anyone willing to move out of the Red Zone. The Italian
predisposition to remain on their ancestral land threatens to undermine that tenet of Vesuvia, and
the offer is also such that those who accept it may only move just beyond the technical boundary
of Vesuvius’ Red Zone, not necessarily out of harm’s way. It may be better for the Civil
Protection Agency to let go of the relocation program and spend its funding elsewhere.

As the culmination of this project, I wrote a research paper laying out the details of the situation
and analyzing the criticisms and good points of Vesuvia. It included some quotes from surveys
for supporting evidence and discussed the reactions to Vesuvia as well as the plan’s directives. I
had hoped to bring the problem of Vesuvius to a new audience, namely to write a concise yet
comprehensive analysis of it in English. That I believe I have accomplished. My paper is
currently in the publication process as one article in a book put together by the Apolline Project,
a BYU research group with which I went to Italy in May 2006 and May 2005. That book will be
published here in Utah and possibly in Naples, Italy in association with the Università degli Studi
“Suor Orsola Benincasa” di Napoli. The paper will also be published as my BYU Honors
Thesis, if I successfully defend it in Winter 2007.