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Volcano ‘worse than Vesuvius’ on brink of eruption for first time in 500 years

A long-dormant "supervolcano" is close to possible eruption for the first time since 1538, sparking fears of a global winter.

Scientists say Campi Flegrei in Italy is weakening making the chances of a huge lava blast more likely.

The volcano near the city of Naples has seen locals placed on yellow alert as a recent rise in the number of earthquakes in the area has left experts gravely concerned.

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The constellation of ancient craters in the south of Italy is more active than Mount Vesuvius, whose eruption in AD79 wiped out the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Campi Flegrei (or Burning Fields in Greek) is among the most dangerous volcanoes in Europe and is often referred to as a "supervolcano" which can produce eruptions reaching caegory 8 – the highest level on the Volcano Explosivity Index.

However its biggest eruption ranked as a category 7 – which can still be disastrous, according to Live Science.

Should it erupt in a similar fashion to that 16th century occasion, molten rock and volcanic gases would be launched high into the stratosphere and lead to 100-feet high tsunamis, the Mirror reports.

It would also result in the spread of sulfur and toxic ash, potentially plunging the planet into a lengthy global winter, killing wildlife and crops in its wake.

Local man Francesco Cammarota told the Guardian: "It’s frightening, especially at night. One day it will just go off."

Discussing the study, which was carried out by experts at Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) and University College London (UCL), lead author Professor Christopher Kilburn (UCL Earth Sciences) revealed: "Our new study confirms that Campi Flegrei is moving closer to rupture."

Since the eruption almost 500 years ago, the area has been gently sinking due to rising magma pushing the ground above it up, with the city of Pozzuoli lifted almost four metres in the last 70 years.

Mauro Antonio Di Vito, director of the INGV’s nearby Vesuvius Observatory, said the dense population of the area at 500,000 residents, presents a high risk as there would be a struggle to evacuate people through the narrow streets.

Scientists are optimistically cautious, however, that a huge scale eruption isn't necessarily inevitable.

For that to happen gases would need build up faster than they can escape, whilst magma would need to be able to move at rapid speed through the crust where a crack has formed.

The Observatory's researcher, Stefano Carlino, explained: "It's the same for all volcanoes that have been quiet for generations. Campi Flegrei may settle into a new routine of gently rising and subsiding, as seen at similar volcanoes around the world, or simply return to rest.

"We can't yet say for sure what will happen. The important point is to be prepared for all outcomes."

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