Italy: cities evacuated after high CO2 levels detected

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Residents of Italy’s capital island of Vulcano have been evacuated after a total of 10.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide were detected in the air.

The authorities said the concentration in the “ordinary” atmospheric area exceeded the 100 metre mark. Officials ordered residents to evacuate but said normal city life continued after 5pm.

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The World Health Organisation says a normal level of CO2 in the atmosphere is 280 parts per million. More than 1,300 tonnes of the gas has been found in the air off the coast of Sicily since the beginning of the year.

Roberto Bassinaccio, the mayor of Vulcano, told Reuters: “Normally we don’t see anything like this.”

Some 75,000 people live on the island. The volcanic island was settled by early sailors after it was opened up by the entrance of Sicily’s ancient volcanic crater – Strasia.

Climatologists and environmental activists have also pointed out that the island, which was part of the main volcanic arc of the Mediterranean, lies directly on the oceanic ridges which tend to trap heat above the plateau.

Titania Magellan, a marine biology professor at Italy’s Università degli Studi di Palermo, tweeted that: “[High levels of CO2] mean the earth is heating up at around 3°C. #PutoAir.”

Tutida Bianca (@tutida_bianca) Volcanoes clearly have a significant effect on climate #PutoAir

On social media, Maria Belica Moschetta said it was “unbelievable” how long the evacuation took: “I have been here 32 years. This morning I saw the navy, the navy said it was up to me. I will come back at daybreak.”

Vulcano lies under the Tuscan mountains that make up the Mediterranean rim. Made famous by its creation by Leonardo da Vinci, the island was recently featured in a short film depicting two scientists stranded on Vulcano who are driven away by stray kites.

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