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Volcanic eruptions can be classified as a natural disaster
that carries danger or risk to the surrounding area (Tschakert
et al, 2017). It can be argued that a natural disaster only becomes a natural
hazard when the event disrupts society and poses harm to human life (Alexander,
1993). Natural hazard related deaths have averaged at 24,000 between 1977-1997
and 90% of these have been in developing countries (Alexander, 1997). As 50% of
the world population currently live in urban areas and this is only expected to
rise (Domeisen and Palm 1996); (Mitchell, 1999); the vulnerability of natural
hazards is only becoming greater.

The region of the Eastern Mediterranean is one of the most
tectonically active regions in the world and has experienced some of the most
intense earthquakes and catastrophic volcanic eruptions. It stretches from the
Adriatic Sea off the coast of East Italy, through to the Aegean Sea in-between
Greece and Turkey and up to the Caspian Sea between Europe and Asia (Barka and Reilinger, 1997). The area is surrounded by
a series of tectonic plates (See Figure 1); the movement of these plates causes
continental collision leading to intense earthquakes and volcanic activity. An
example of this is the Arabian plate which is moving in a north-northwest
direction parallel to Eurasia at a rate of 25mm/year causing collision along
the Zagros fold and thrust belt (Barka and Reilinger, 1997).

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Most of the volcanic activity in the
Eastern Mediterranean comes from the 450km long Hellenic Volcanic Arc which is
linked to the subduction of the African plate and the Aegean microplate. The
arc stretches from the Methana Peninsula on the Greek mainland through several
Greek islands onto the Bodrum Peninsula in Turkey. It contains several active
volcanoes such as Methana, Nisyros and the most recently active volcano of Santorini
which has erupted 9 recorded times in the last 600 years (McKenzie,
1972); (Dimitriadis et al 2009).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tectonics
of Santorini

Santorini is located along the Hellenic Arc where
subduction of the African plate beneath the Aegean Microplate occurs. This makes
it one of the most active volcanic areas in the Southern Aegean (McKenzie,
1972); (Dimitriadis et al 2009). The
Santorini-Amorgos Fault Zone is associated with frequent seismicity within the
islands and has produced two of the largest earthquakes in the region. These
occurred on the 9th July 1956 at 03:11am and 03:24am with magnitudes
of 6.9 and 7.5; this generated a tsunami with up to 20m wave heights (Papadopoulos
and Pavlides, 1992). There is no evidence of
seismic activity beneath the caldera of the volcano in Santorini; however, a lot
of seismic activity is associated with the broader area of the Aegean Sea which
has moderate to strong seismicity with epicentres located towards the Columbo
Reef (Dimitriadis et al 2009). Volcanism
across the Santorini islands particularly occurs North-eastward into the
submarine environment; there are a line of small craters called the
Kameni-Kolumbo line (Sakellariou et al 2010). There are 20 submarine volcanic cones across this line of
craters which are situated on an active strike slip fault zone (Cantner et al
2014) the largest of these is the Kolumbo volcano which is 7km northeast of
Santorini and has a crater of 1,500m wide (Dimitriadis et al 2009).

Impacts
of a Volcanic Eruption

The most significant impact of a volcanic eruption depends
on the specific country or the cities circumstances; densely populated urban
areas have a greater potential for catastrophe along with developing countries
(Chester et al 2000). There are over 457 volcanoes in cities with a population of
over 1 million people that are located within 100km from the volcano (Mayell,
2002) this shows the potential catastrophe that could occur in a volcanic
eruption. Whether a country is developed or developing is also a large factor
in risk as GNP costs of a natural hazard are twenty times greater in a developing
country (Anon, 1994).

For areas such as the East Mediterranean, volcanic
eruptions are an added risk as there are many high tourist destinations within
the Mediterranean that are densely populated. There is a high level of
attractiveness in exotic tourist destinations that are prone to natural
disasters such as hurricanes, avalanches and volcanoes (Murphy and Bayley,
1989). Volcanoes in particular, provide fertile soils, mineral riches,
hydrothermal power and are considered aesthetically pleasing which attracts
many tourists into the area (Dominey-Howes and
Minos-Minopoulos, 2004).

Santorini has a population of 11,400 people and more than
500,000 tourists visit the island per year (Santorini, 2017); the fantastic
views, architecture, high temperatures and the volcano are the main tourist
attractions of the island. Temperatures average between 25°C and 29°C in peak
season (July and August) which makes the island very popular to tourists
(Matzarakis, 2001). The islands economy is maintained through tourism as the
majority of the population are employed through the tourism sector (Dominey-Howes and Minos-Minopoulos, 2004). The high
levels of tourism mean that there could be up to 50,000 people on the island at
one time, as Santorini is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in Europe (Druitt
et al, 1999), it makes the overall hazard of a volcanic eruption in Santorini very
high and impacts could be devastating.

Minoan
Eruption of Santorini

In the late Bronze Age, a sudden eruption took place from a
volcano in Santorini; it is thought to be triggered by an earthquake, as there
were signs of damage and rebuilding in Akrotiri, Santorini (Bond and Sparks,
1976). The eruption created an intense amount of pyroclastic debris which was
ejected violently and spread through high velocity winds. The main pyroclastic
material produced was ash and pumice, which was white or light pink in colour
and a rhyodacite (Friedrich et al 1977);
the pumice was poorly stratified and well sorted which suggests that there was
continuity, it covered the whole volcano which now makes up the present-day
caldera (Bond and Spark, 1976). The eruption generated a tsunami, which carried
the pumice and ash deposits across to the Cretan coast; the ash layers were
5-12cm thick and were found on Rhodes and various parts of Eastern Crete, such
as Mochlos and Palaikastro (Driessen and MacDonald, 2000). The eruption also
produced mudflows because of phreatomagmatic activity which was due to the
interaction of magma and water and the caldera collapsed towards the later
stages of the eruption (Bond and Sparks, 1976).

The Minoan eruption of Santorini supports how devastating a
volcanic eruption can be in an area such as Santorini. This is shown through the
late Bronze Age eruption that was extremely devastating for the Minoan
civilisation in environmental, economic and particularly social aspects. Environmental
impacts were particularly focused on the substantial damage that the ash had on
the crops, livestock and water supplies: olive trees, vines and other crops
would have been destroyed from the ash (Driessen and MacDonald, 2000). The
inhalation of ash has the potential to have adverse health effects after
exposure for humans or animals (Wagner, 1980). Many of locals made their living
through farming by raising various animals and growing crops (Lambert, 2017);
the ash could have had serious health implications on these animals such as
breathing or digestive problems or even result in death. As the Minoans relied
on farming for a living, this would have had a major economic downfall to the
area.

The Minoan civilisation was known for its extravagant
lifestyle and palaces, which acted as local administrative, trade, religious
and political centres (Cartwright, 2009). The earthquake and eruption had
immense disruption to this extravagant lifestyle economic status. After the
earthquake struck there was evidence of rebuilding of certain palaces such as
the Vathypetro Palace and the Galatas Palace in Crete; these palaces were
patched up with cheaper construction materials to what was originally used (Marinatos,1939). The change in construction material
and overall look of the repairs led to loss of prestigious appearance of
their architecture and shows a drop in economic status. There was evidence that
the palaces were also used to house the locals for safety as well as being used
for storage to hoard food and precious belongings to keep them safe (Driessen
and MacDonald, 2000). The hoarding of materials and change in the function of
the palaces shows a sudden panic and change in economic status. The
archaeological data suggests there was an economic dislocation in Crete which
could have been triggered by the eruption and caused them to rebuild their
normal life which would have taken years and potentially never reached its past
economic status.

There was a considerable amount of evidence that showed social
stress of the Minoans caused by the earthquake and eruption. There was no
monitoring or evacuation techniques and very little preparation at all; this
caused intense traumatic stress and put the Minoan Civilisation in crisis.
There was evidence of new wells that had been dug as others went out of use
which suggests that the ash may have polluted water and they were struggling
for water supplies (Driessen and MacDonald, 2000). This would have panicked the
locals as they relied heavily on the wells in everyday life; other evidence of
stress included the change in functions to particular rooms, blocked entrances
and hoarding of precious metals and objects which indicated a panic for safety.
There was evidence for a number of secondary effects that would have occurred
after the eruption: there was a change in essential functions of society such
as architecture, production and food storage. This indicated there may have
been a change in economic wellbeing and potential conflict in areas which
disrupted the Minoan way of life- out of 54 occupied settlements at the start
of the Late Minoan period, only 10 remained by the end (Driessen and MacDonald,
2000). This indicates loss of population whether it be due to death from the
eruption or people who fled the area.

Future
of Santorini

The data from past eruptions within Santorini has helped
shape an understanding of each of the volcanoes to help predict any future
volcanic activity. There has been considerable monitoring of the Kameni islands
in particular for seismicity and dome growth over past years (Dimitriadis et al
2005); this has shaped an understanding of the past and current features of the
volcano. The eruptions that have taken place between 1866 and 1939 in the
Kameni Islands have followed the same pattern: pre-eruptive lift, eruption of
magma from at least two eruptive vents, early formation of lava domes which act
as a focus for explosive activity and most importantly dome-growth (Pyle and
Elliott, 2006). This information helps current monitoring techniques to predict
a future volcanic eruption, although Santorini volcano is currently in an
effusive phase, the past records show that there could be a future eruption
within decades or centuries.

This information could help to predict a future eruption as
there is potential that it could follow similar patterns to past recorded eruptions
and therefore could be predicted days or weeks in advance (Pyle and Elliott,
2006). This would give time for the current population to evacuate the area
which would dramatically decrease the impacts of the eruption. However, the
overall impact of a future volcanic eruption in Santorini would depend solely on
the preparation of the locals and various departments such as police and civil
defence on the island. So far there is no emergency plan put into place if an
eruption was to occur and only 60% of locals know that the Kolumbo volcano is
still active (Dominey-Howes and
Minos-Minopoulos, 2004). There
is a clear lack of understanding of the potential hazard of the volcanoes and
as there is no emergency plan put into place this along with the high levels of
tourism numbers make the island at high risk of an eruption. If an eruption was
to occur it is likely to completely wipe out the tourism trade in Santorini as
there could be severe damage to the architecture and many people would be put
off visiting the island in the near future. As tourism is the main source of
income for the locals, in the event of an eruption there would be substantial
damage to property, crops and jobs. This would be likely to have serious damage
to the economy, one that would take years to rebuild. However, this could also
work in its favour as after the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland in 2010, it led to an increase
in tourism (Crockett, 2016).

Conclusion

There is no doubt that a volcanic eruption causes severe
catastrophe to an area; it can vary from being a small inconvenience to having
devastating effects to urban and rural communities and population (McCoy and
Heiken,2000). The Minoan eruption of Santorini was one of the most destructive
eruptions in history, its impact affected every part of society in particular
the social aspect as there is substantial evidence of stress, trauma and panic
which all comes down to the little preparation and the shock of the eruption.

Although the volcano in Santorini has been dormant for the
last 60 years, it is constantly monitored using techniques such as measuring
ground deformation, gas emissions and seismic activity. The most recent
activity of the volcano occurred in January 2011 when there was intense radial
ground deformation and some seismic activity (Lagios et al. 2013) it lasted a
year, however nothing has been recorded since. The education and science of
monitoring techniques of volcanoes have improved drastically over the last
several decades which has lowered the overall hazard risk of volcanic eruptions
as there is a greater chance of a volcano being predicted which gives people
time to prepare.

The monitoring techniques of the volcano
in Santorini mean that if there was to be a future eruption, the population of
the island should have time to evacuate; this differentiates from the Minoan eruption,
as they did not have this sort of prediction and preparation. Such preparation
should drastically decrease the social impacts of an eruption such as stress
and trauma and overall number of deaths. However, Santorini
being one of the largest tourist destinations in the Mediterranean puts the
area at an extra risk for the economic and environmental impacts that could
occur from an eruption. In a study by (Dominey-Howes
and Minos-Minopoulos, 2004) 40% of the residents in Santorini feared that an
eruption would have the greatest negative impact on tourism, which is their
main source of income. The tourist trade, along with the lack of emergency plan
that Santorini has in place, puts the island at very high risk from a future
eruption. A future eruption may not have the social implications that the
Minoan eruption had, however, it would have the same impact or much greater
impact on the economy and environment as Santorini is a growing tourist
destination which has become increasingly popular in recent years. 

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