Pompeii was a city located southeast of Mt Vesuvius in Naples on the western coast of Italy. Mt Vesuvius is an active mountain that is located nearby and on 24 August 79 A. D., the mountain erupted and covered the surrounding cities including the city of Pompeii. This was witnessed by Pliny, who observed the event at his home. He described a cloud that seemed blotched and dirty. According to him, many people did not realize the seriousness of the situation and they therefore did not see the need to escape. Pliny described falling hot ashes that got hotter and thicker. There were also bits of pumice and blackened stones that had been charred by the flames. The ashes filled the sky during the day and made it darker than the night. The volcano emitted poisonous fumes and they caused several deaths. The cloud lifted two days later but the poisonous fumes were still present (Hansen & Curtis, 2008). The city of Pompeii remained buried until 1748. It is believed that the town was preserved by the ash. Nothing had changed when the town was discovered.
There are no reports of any volcanic eruptions before the 79 AD disaster. The people had only experienced minor earth tremors prior to the eruption and they did not see the need for getting concerned about it. Even as the mountain was erupting, few people realized the danger they were facing and some even dared to take a closer look at what was going on (Hansen & Curtis 2008). Vesuvius had experienced small eruptions of lava and minor pyroclastic eruptions (Jashemski & Meyer, 2002) which were obviously not a cause of great concern. Before an eruption occurs, there is usually an increase of volcanic gases such as carbon dioxide. Such gases are often lethal to livestock since the animals are suffocated and they die. In AD 62, many animals died on the slopes of Vesuvius. Other signs were eminent prior to AD 79. There was an earthquake, which damaged the theater, but the people ignored it. On 20 August, stronger tremors were reported and people reported hearing noises, which sounded like thunder. Springs stopped flowing and wells dried up but the people did not connect these occurrences to volcanic eruptions (Jashemski & Meyer, 2002). Being a religious people, they probably attributed it to the gods.
Even if the people had paid close attention to Mt Vesuvius, they probably would not have been able to escape and save their lives. After excavations, many people were found buried and their skeletons show that they were trying to escape. Most of the people tried to escape during the second phase of the eruption (Jashemski & Meyer, 2002). This shows that after the first eruption, they had only thought of seeking shelter and they had not really thought of escaping. The gray pumice was formed after seven hours of eruption and it had accumulated to a height of 150 cm after five hours. The pumice fell on the southeast of Vesuvius and other areas were largely unaffected. Many people were killed by the pyroclastic surges and falls that interrupted the pumice. The surges and flows killed people within a 10 km radius from the crater (Jashemski & Meyer, 2002).
The disaster at Pompeii could not have been avoided because of its magnitude. The only thing that could have been done was to lessen the effects of the eruption. Had the people had the knowledge concerning eruptions back then, they could have escaped the region when they started seeing the signs of an impending eruption. Although it is a volcanic mountain, Vesuvius had been dormant for a long time. Today, scientists and meteorologists have learnt how to read most of the signs that are associated with volcanic eruptions. However, this does not mean that people are always ready for when eruptions happen. There are many volcanic mountains in different regions and some have erupted in recent times. They have changed the geography of the affected regions and have caused the death and displacement of many people.
Hansen, V., & Curtis, R. K. (2008). Voyages in world history. New York, NY: Cengage Learning
Jashemski, F. M. W., & Meyer, G. F. (2002). The natural history of Pompeii. London: CambridgeUniversity Press
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