When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, it wiped the city of Pompeii off the face of the planet, burying both it and its citizens under tons of volcanic fallout!
Pompeii was a medium-sized Roman city in the Italian region of Campania, in 79 CE, however, it was completely destroyed in the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius, a stratovolcano located close to the city of Naples.
The destruction of Pompeii (and other cities) was caused according to stratigraphic studies in two main phases. The first phase was a Plinian eruption, which is typified by a colossal ejection of gas and volcanic ash high into the stratosphere.
This phase lasted roughly 20 hours and produced a rain of pumice in a southwards-reaching cone that stretched for over 32 kilometres (20 miles).
The second-and for the people of Pompeii, even more deadly- phase was a Pelean eruption, which consisted of a number of vast pyroclastic flows.
These flows were fast-moving currents of superheated gas (at roughly 1,000 degrees Celsius/1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) and rock that rapidly dispersed at ground level into the surrounding area. The combination of both these phases led to the burning and asphyxiation of all life that stood in harm’s way.
In addition, the eruption caused a small tsunami in the nearby Bay of Naples, rendering escape attempts by boat impossible, and a series of tremors that aided the destruction of dwellings and temples.
Out of the total found, 38 per cent were discovered in ash fall, with the remaining 62 per cent found in surge deposits. Unfortunately, due to a lack of official documentation from the time, what percentage these represent of Pompeii’s total population is unknown.
Since the eruption of 79 CE, Mount Vesuvius has erupted more than 30 times, the last occurring in March 1944.
Despite this, the area surrounding Mount Vesuvius continues to be lived in by many Italians, with the entire region in its immediate vicinity colonized. To combat the potential for disaster, the Italian government foresees the need for an emergency evacuation of over 600,000 people and has marked a “Red Zone’ for those areas that would be most severely affected.