Stromboli volcano: Volcanologist warns of ‘real and justified’ fear of Italy tsunami

The eruption of Stromboli, an active volcano near Sicily, has killed one hiker and terrified the small cities built at its feet, like tourist hotspot Ginostra. But Guido Ventura, a volcanologist at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) said Stromboli should not be underestimated, as it could bring even more destruction following Wednesday’s eruption. He told Italian daily Il Messaggero: “What worries the most is not just the fall of incandescent molten lava fragments, but is most of the times the risk of tsunamis. Usually, the products of the eruption fall back and get deposited along the sides of the volcano, what is commonly called the Sciara del Fuoco, a sort of valley opening on the northern side of Stromboli. 

“There, go all the pyroclastic materials and magma erupted – which can provoke landslides of various intensity and, once they hit the water, they can trigger a tsunami.

“We have had a demonstration of a devastating tsunami in 2002.

“On that occasion, the wave caused injuries, damaged dozens of vessels and triggered the evacuation of the island.”

On December 30 2002, two tsunamis hit the area within seven minutes, marking the peak of a volcanic crisis that started two days before with a large emission of lava flows. 

READ MORE: Watch drone footage of aftermath of Stromboli volcano eruption that killed one in Sicily

stromboli volcano eruption tsunami alert volcanologist tourism sicily italy

Stromboli volcano’s eruption killed one hiker on Wednesday (Image: GETTY)

The biggest waves were as high as 10 metres.

Mr Ventura warned Italy has seen even bigger tsunamis in the past, following Stromboli’s volcanic activity.

He said: “We even know about even more devastating tsunamis that took place in the past.

“We believe a tsunami generated in the Middle Ages following a powerful eruption have managed to hit the Campania.

“The tsunami alert is then real and entirely justified.” 

READ MORE: Stromboli volcano eruption: Tourist killed as Italy volcano erupts with huge plume of ash

stromboli volcano eruption tsunami alert volcanologist tourism sicily italy

Italy has seen big tsunamis in the past following Stromboli’s volcanic activity (Image: GETTY)

Campania is a southern region of Italy 237km far from Stromboli.

There is located the Vesuvius, a dormant volcano that in 79 AD destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabile.

It last erupted in 1944, making it the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years.

On the other hand, Stromboli is constantly active, with plumes of ashes usually reaching 200-300 metre heights.

But, Mr Ventura said, at least three to four times every century, the volcano surprises Sicilians with much more devastating eruptions. 

stromboli volcano eruption tsunami alert volcanologist tourism sicily italy

Stromboli’s activity cannot be forecasted (Image: GETTY)

On Wednesday, plumes of ashes went as high in the sky as 3 kilometres.

And, unlike other volcanoes, Stromboli’s activity cannot be forecasted as it doesn’t send out any precursory signals which can allow officials to evacuate the area on time.

However, tourists and residents are not scared by the volcano.

Annalisa Angelosanti, originally from Terni, has been coming to Ginostra for years and said she has no intention to change her holiday habits.

She said: “I will return every year to Ginostra, it is a wonderful place, but it is necessary to improve protocols and communications.

“Even on Wednesday the inhabitants didn’t know what to do or where to go. 

stromboli volcano eruption tsunami alert volcanologist tourism sicily italy

Two tsunamis hit the area surrounding Stromboli within seven minutes in 2002 (Image: GETTY)

There was a great deal of confusion before rescue services arrived.”

But her love for Stromboli remains the same.

She continued: “The islanders are wonderful. Next year I’ll come back – as always.”

Another tourist, Valerio Gironi from Milan, added: “If you respect the volcano you will be respected.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to leave. Certainly, if it had happened at 7 pm, when so many people go on excursions, it would have been a massacre”.

(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)