Mount Vesuvius warning as volcano ‘could erupt soon’ with ‘millions’ at risk

Mount Vesuvius kept 'under 24 hour surveillance' says expert

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Vesuvius might be the most famous volcano of all time. It obliterated the ancient city of Pompeii in what was one of the most deadly volcanic eruptions in history in 79 AD, leaving an estimated 2,000 people dead. Molten rock was thrown into the sky, and pulverised pumice and hot ash sped down Vesuvius’ slopes at a rate of 1.5 million tonnes per second over the city’s 12,000 residents.

The last time it erupted was in 1944, seven months after the Allied invasion of Italy, meaning that Vesuvius is an extremely active volcano.

According to Underworld, an educational YouTube channel, it could well be on its way to erupting in the near future.

In a short documentary exploring 2022’s potential volcanic blasts around the world, the narrator noted: “Mount Vesuvius could erupt again — and soon.”

Vesuvius is considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world, not only due to how active it is, but because three million Italians live close enough to it to be affected by a future eruption.

Half a million people live even closer than the rest in what is known as the “danger zone”, making it the most densely populated volcanic reign in the entire world.

The Italian government is so concerned about Vesuvius that it is actively trying to get people to move away from the dome’s vicinity.

Officials are creating a national park around the volcano that no one will be allowed to live in.

To help with the fallout, they will offer people direct financial incentives to move elsewhere — around $40,000 (£30,000) per person.

The end goal for the government is to get to the point where the population around Vesuvius could be evacuated in just a few days.

When Vesuvius erupted in 79AD and destroyed the city of Pompeii, an estimated 2,000 people died.

But, as the documentary’s narrator noted: “An eruption of a similar size in the near future would surely be much, much worse.”

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It was once a widely held belief that Vesuvius erupted in one fateful explosion, Pompeii’s inhabitants without a chance of escape.

But, more recent analysis and research suggests that the volcano spewed its contents not in one intense batch, but, rather, over a period of nearly 24 hours.

Dougal Jerram, a geologist who has studied the remnants of the ancient Roman city, told the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary ‘Secrets: Gangs of Pompeii’ that evidence at the site suggests those living in the city would have raced to escape, while others may have decided to stay.

He said the key to understanding the “cataclysmic eruption” is that it did not take place in an instant.

Examining the stone layers and sediment from the deposit of the eruption episode, he has been able to read the various stages of the eruption, and explained: “People think that the whole eruption happened almost instantaneously, but actually this white pumice built up to about this point over seven hours.”

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Experts have also analysed the Pompeii suburb of Oplontis for signs of how the eruption came in waves.

In one instance, evidence for a wealthy family was found, having taken refuge in a basement storeroom shortly after the first eruption at 1pm, collecting all their moveable wealth in the knowledge that thieves and bandits were rife in the city as it crumbled; they were soon killed by the eruption.

Researchers suspect that shortly afterwards, a second group entered the storeroom and took the valuables.

At 8pm — seven hours after the family died — the volcano entered its second stage of eruption and a different type of magma slowly covered the city.

Yet, the pumice it produced is still very light in colour and low down in the wall of ash that has been left behind, proving that there was yet more to come.

At 7am the following morning, Vesuvius entered its final and most deadly phase.

Talking through the various layers of pumice, Mr Jerram explained: “As you move up, you can see that there’s a sharp transition: you go from this gravelly layered grey pumice horizon, about ten hours or so or deposit within there, and then it becomes a sharp change.

“The size of the particles are much more varied, there’s a lot of small particles in there, and you can actually see layers in it that show me that there was current, there were turbulent currents depositing this material.”

The distinct layer of solidified ash is evidence of high-speed current of heated gas and volcanic debris.

Known as a pyroclastic flow, it devastated everything in its path and preserved belongings and the skeletons of people who decided to stay.

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