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Seismic risk mitigation at Ischia island (Naples, Southern Italy): An innovative approach to mitigate catastrophic scenarios

De Natale, Giuseppe, Petrazzuoli, Stefano, Romanelli, Fabio, Troise, Claudia, Vaccari, Franco, Somma, Renato, Peresan, Antonella, Panza, Giuliano F.
Engineering geology 2019
earthquakes, geophysics, historical records, risk, risk reduction, tectonics, topographic slope, urban areas, volcanic islands, Italy
Ischia island, in the province of Naples, is a densely populated volcanic island, in which small to moderate magnitude earthquakes occur. Due to the very shallow depth of such events (<2 km), they can generate serious damage and casualties, up to the complete destruction of urban centers located within short epicentral distance. Almost all of the earthquakes at Ischia island occur at shallow depth, beneath the Northern slopes of the Mt. Epomeo horst, which is located very close to the town of Casamicciola. In fact, Casamicciola was completely destroyed by the 1883 earthquake (2313 victims) and experienced intensities up to XI degree on the Mercalli scale. Historical records show that the background seismicity here is almost absent, but larger earthquakes tend to occur in clusters, lasting some decades and with intervals between consecutive events on the order of years to decades. The clustering in time and the very shallow hypocentres, which cause, with respect to tectonic earthquakes of similar magnitude, larger effects though limited to a relatively small area, make the seismicity in this island very peculiar. Despite such destructive record, till now official hazard maps strongly underestimated the seismic hazard in this area. On August 21st 2017, a very shallow earthquake with rather small magnitude struck the area of Casamicciola, killing two people, injuring many more and causing huge damage and partial to total collapse of edifices located just above the earthquake fault.The maximum acceleration recorded for this earthquake exceeded by more than a factor of two the reference acceleration that should be sustained by edifices, according to official hazard maps. We propose here a complete procedure to assess and mitigate the risk, which can be rapid and economically affordable and, at the same time, can avoid further grief due to possible occurrence of other destructive earthquakes within a short time interval. We describe the most likely building collapse and casualty scenarios, in case that low-to-moderate magnitude earthquakes would occur before the edifices would be appropriately reinforced and secured. Our scenarios demonstrate the urgent need for securing operations. The proposed procedures for assessing seismic hazard and for securing urban areas provide an example that is potentially applicable to the whole Italian peninsula. They may allow in fact the mitigation of the destructive impact of a large number of earthquakes, which in Italy are often characterized by low or moderate magnitudes.