From The Price Report (Great Britain)-
Thousands of people were killed – we will never know quite how many. A cloud of toxic material rose over 20 miles into the sky. The heat energy involved was 100,000 times as intense as that from the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima.
When Mount Vesuvius erupted on 24 August, 79 AD, the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum never saw it coming. They had been conscious of earth tremors in the preceding weeks, but didn’t link them to the mountain that overshadowed their towns. There is no Latin word for volcano. The closest is a neologism: mons ignifer (fire-bearing mountain).
Our only source for the disaster is a couple of letters written by Pliny the Younger, who was then a 17-year-old, watching, transfixed, as a huge cloud rose above the mountain:
“I cannot give you a more exact description of its appearance than by comparing it to a pine tree; for it shot up to a great height in the form of a tall trunk, which spread out at the top as though into branches. Occasionally it was brighter, occasionally darker and spotted, as it was either more or less filled with earth and cinders “
Then an explosion. More explosions. And suddenly, molten rock and pumice started tumbling from the sky, at a rate of over a million tons a second.
For those not fortunate enough to escape the towns immediately, death would come either by asphyxiation, or incineration, as pyroclastic flows streamed down from the mountain, burning everything in their path…
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