Wednesday 13 September 2017

Gaseous emissions kill three family members at Solfatara di Pozzuoli volcanic vent.

Three members of the same family have died after becoming overcome by volcanic fumes at the Solfatara di Pozzuoli crater on the Campi Flegrei (Phlegraean Fields) volcanic field, to the west of Naples, on Tuesday 12 September 2017. The victims have been identified as Massimiliano Carrer and Tiziana Zaramella, both in their forties and their son, Lorenzo, aged eleven. The incident happened after the boy crossed a barrier to aproach the crater and was overcome by fumes. This prompted his parents to attempt to rescue him, but both were in turn also overcome by funes and collapsed. To make matters worse the area of ground around the crater, which is made up of poorly consolidated volcanic material, partially collapsed depositing the bodies into a hot mudpit about three meters below the surface. The bodeis were later recovered by the local civil protection department workers using breathing equipment. A scond child, described as a seven-year-old-boy, survived the incident.

Rescue workers at the Solfatara di Pozzuoli vent on 12 September 2017. AP.

Solfatara di Pozzuoli is a small volcanic vent last known to have erupted in 1198, in what was probably a phreatic eruption (explosion caused by magma or other hot volcanic material coming into contact with water). It forms part of the Campi Flegrei, an large volcanic caldera to the west of Naples. A caldera is a depressed area formed by the collapse of a burried magma chamber; the most obvious examples of these are the craters found at the tops of large volcanoes, however large calderas, such as Campi Flegrei, are often at ground level and frequently contain several smaller volcanoes. The majority of the Campi Flegrei lies beneath the Gulf of Pozzuoli, a large natural harbour, but the exposed parts have been a popular tourist attraction since at least Roman times, and were declared a regional park in 2003. Because the volcano is largely submerged, and siginificant water reserves are now found in the deposits above the magma chamber, most eruptions within the caldera are phreatic in nature.

Block diagram showing the position of the Campi Flegrei Caldera beneath the Gulf of Pozzuoli. International Continental Scientific Drilling Program.

The Campi Flegrei is located on the border of the African and European Plates, specifically where Africa is being subducted beneath the European Plate. As it is drawn into the Earth's interior material from the African Plate melts, and the lighter portions rise up through the overlying European Plate, causing a number of volcanoes including Etna and Vesuvius. 

Map showing the tectonic plates underlying Italy and southern Europe, and the location of the l'Aquila Earthquake. Napoli Unplugged.

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