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Volcanic risk and the role of the media. A case study in the Etna area


On December 24, 2018, the Etna volcano has recorded a significant eruption. Linked to this phenomenon, after a seismic swarm of 72 shocks, a 4.8-magnitude earthquake struck a large area North of Catania city, on the Eastern coast of Sicily. Six villages reported 28 injured people and damages to the building. According to seismologists the earthquake had an unusual level of magnitude. Yet, despite the real danger of this event, many people who live around the volcano, in one of the most densely populated areas of Sicily, perceived these facts in an ambivalent way. Indeed, their lives continued as before even in awareness of the natural hazard, while several media presented the situation as really dangerous in a worried tone. This paper, part of a wider research still in progress, aims to analyse the perception of the risk towards the biggest and highest volcano of Europe by the inhabitants of some villages that rise around the Etna. Based on a previous research conducted in 2013 in the same area, this study compares the ways in which this recent earthquake was perceived by some residents in the area and the ways in which some online newspaper narrated the event. Therefore, by analysing and comparing the first results that come from interviews realized during a fieldwork and from online newspaper/magazine articles, this study tries to understand, from a geographical and cultural perspective, how the perception of the risk can be narrated attributing different values to hazard. The latter can have pragmatic implications because from this symbolic evaluation may depend the behaviour of an entire community.