Majority of the 250 residents of the volcanic Italian island of Vulcano were ordered to evacuate after dangerously high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air had been causing respiratory difficulties in people and their pets on Thursday, October 21. According to the Italian National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), carbon dioxide levels around Vulcano in the Aeolian archipelago off the north coast of Sicily have soared from 80 tons to 480 tons, dramatically reducing the amount of oxygen in the air. Mayor Marco Giorgianni of Lipari signed an ordinance ordering the evacuation of the port area and establishing a “red zone” in which non-researchers and non-civil protection officers are not permitted to stay. On the other hand, people can remain in “yellow zones” but only on the upper floors of their homes. Non-resident visitors and tourists are also prohibited from visiting the island for a month under the ordinance.

“The activity of the volcano gives us reason in this moment to pay attention even if almost all of the data points to a condition of stability,” Giorgianni said in his message on the Lipari Comune’s Facebook page. “The data that motivated my ordinance is the increasing gas emissions.” INGV’s Palermo and Catania-Etneo Observatory website claims that four geochemical stations that detect CO2 from the soil are now operational. To supplement the existing seismic stations, the observatory has erected seven new sites: six on Vulcano and one on Lipari. A high-definition thermal camera to monitor soil temperature has also been installed.