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Active volcanoes can generate natural hazards with potentially catastrophic consequences for society. With the growth of population worldwide, more exposed zones are occupied and more critical industrial facilities are being constructed, which require siting in areas of very low geological hazard. Because of these expanding societal demands, the need for risk assessments of volcanic activity has grown over recent decades and will continue to do so.

According to the definitions established by UNDRO (1979), volcanic risk is a measure of the expected number of lives lost, persons injured, damage to property and disruption of economic activity as a result of a particular volcanic event. It is defined as the product of volcanic hazard, vulnerability and elements at risk. Volcanic hazard represents the probability of occurrence of a potentially damaging volcanic event within a specific period of time in a given area. Vulnerability indicates the degree of loss to a given element at risk or set of such elements resulting from the occurrence of a given volcanic event and is expressed on a scale from zero (no damage) to one (total loss). Finally, elements at risk denote the population, buildings and civil engineering works, economic activities, public services, utilities and infrastructure, etc. at risk in a given area.

Because of the anthropogenic nature of the vulnerability and elements at risk, mitigation can usually be achieved with appropriate technical measures. The volcanic hazard, however, is intrinsically linked to the volcano and, except for specific hazards such as lava flows

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