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How memory can reduce the vulnerability to disasters: the bradyseism of Pozzuoli in southern Italy

1 Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali, Università di Napoli “Federico II”, Italy
2 Vico Monte della Pietà 1, 80138 Napoli, Italy

Special Issues: Socio-Natural Disasters and Vulnerability Reduction in the territorial ecosystems

How does the memory of a traumatic event influence the behaviour of a population facing risks in the present? We address this question using as a case study the evacuation of rione Terra, in Pozzuoli, during the 1969–1972 unrest of the Campi Flegrei volcano in southern Italy. The volcano's only historic eruption occurred in 1538. Renewed unrest was recognised in early 1970 by uplift of the ground at about 7 cm a month in the vicinity of Pozzuoli. This was the first unrest for four centuries. Memories of the previous occasion had faded and so the community was not prepared for scientific concern of a possible eruption. Equally, the scientific community and local authorities were not prepared for managing an emergency. One consequence was the abrupt and forced evacuation of more than 500 homes from rione Terra, the historic core of Pozzuoli. The evacuees were permanently relocated, the rione was left empty and no eruption took place. This paper presents new eye-witness accounts of the 1970 evacuation and its repercussions. Evacuees have spoken out for the first time about their experiences. The results show how the sense of loss of a community has overwhelmed anxiety about an eruption. They partly reflect a nostalgia for the past and a lost way of life, but also a distrust of authority caused by the harsh nature of the evacuation, as well as a lack of warning and discussion about possible responses to the uplift. This perception encourages a reluctance to accept official instructions, impeding development of a risk-reduction strategy in a highly vulnerable territory. Since trust is essential for responding efficiently to volcanic emergencies, overcoming these views is crucial for enhancing the coping strategies of the populations at risk.
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Keywords memory; oral history; community; bradyseism; disaster; Pozzuoli; Campi Flegrei

Citation: Maria Laura Longo. How memory can reduce the vulnerability to disasters: the bradyseism of Pozzuoli in southern Italy. AIMS Geosciences, 2019, 5(3): 631-644. doi: 10.3934/geosci.2019.3.631

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