Mount Vesuvius is an iconic mountain in Italy, famous for its tragic history of Pompeii, the ancient Roman city buried beneath its ash and lava in 79 AD. The volcano, located just 6 miles east of Naples, has been dormant for over 80 years but its devastating power still lingers in the minds of many. Mount Vesuvius has been on scientists’ radars ever since its infamous eruption, needing to be closely monitored in order to protect those living nearby. From its location in Campania, it stands at a towering 4,203 feet above sea level, covering an area of around nineteen miles. So how far is this feared mountain from the ill-fated city of Pompeii?
At just 8 miles away from Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius is a constant reminder of its destructive powers. Despite its close proximty to the city, the eruption of 79 AD was an act of surprise for nearby citizens, as Vesuvius showed no signs of activity before its wrath was unleashed. The devastating pyroclastic surge that wiped out the city was incredibly strong and reached temperatures of up to 932°F, traveling much further than expected. While those living close by to the mountain would have felt some concern for its dangers, and taken safety precautions, many historians believe that those living in nearby Pompeii were unaware of the looming danger.
Although the volcano has been dormant since 1944, it should not be taken lightly. Being one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world due to its population density, it sits on top of a vast magma chamber. Scientists fear that if it were to be hit by an earthquake, it could easily cause an eruption. Professor Giuseppe De Natale, leading volcanologist at Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics, claims that the magma reservoir at the base of the volcano was increasing, warning of an eruption in the near future. Evidence of similar sleeping volcanoes awakening is found in Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano which erupted in 2018 and is still active, as well as Mexico’s Popocatepetl, which erupted in 2019.
It’s essential that authorities in the area are aware of the dangers associated with Vesuvius and prepare accordingly, particularly due to its close proximity to nearby populated areas. Currently, the active surveillance of the volcano includes strain monitoring and tilt measurements, with the help of more than 1,500 seismographs. This data is studied by professionals, as any sudden movements on the mountain could be ‘a precursor of a possible eruption’, according to scientist Giulio Selvaggi. In order to keep the surrounding population safe, this data provides the best indication of a future eruption.
The greatest threats to the population, of course, are the lava flow and pyroclastic flows from the volcano. While the lava flow is obviously hazardous, it can be monitored and is usually predicted and slower moving than the pyroclastic flow. Despite this, both have the potential to cause massive damage to the nearby cities as proven by the eruption of 79 AD. In order to ensure maximum safety for those living nearby, populations in the most dangerous areas, identified as ‘red zones’, continue to be carefully managed and controlled by the Italian government.
Preparations To Be Made By Those Living Nearby
As the magma chamber below Vesuvius is under constant surveillance by the Italian government, it would be wise for those living in the Campania region to remain up to date on any news of activity and take the necessary precautions should any occur. Those living in close proximity to Vesuvius should be sure to have an evacuation plan in place, as well as appropriate food and water supplies. Additionally, having an emergency kit with medical supplies such as first aid material and medicines should be essential.
Those living close by should also familiarize themselves with the local alert system, as any potential eruption should be indicated through civil protection warnings. While the expert teams of scientists assigned to the active surveillance should also come with an alarm system when it comes to monitoring for any potential activity, being prepared for any possible scenario is key.
The Economic Impacts Of Vesuvius
The region in and around the Campania area is popular with tourists, particularly due to its historical sites and the picturesque views at the top of Vesuvius. As the volcano continues to be monitored, the local economy heavily relies on the safety of its tourists. Financial aid is also provided by the Italian government should any case of emergency eruption occur, as evacuations and relocations can cause a financial strain.
The region is also home to an abundance of natural resources in towns and cities such as Naples and Sorrento, as well as agricultural and fishing industries that could benefit from the eruption. In certain cases, the volcanic material and minerals that come with an eruption can be beneficial for soil health, used to grow crops. Despite this, the government in the area need to be sure that any potential eruption would not cause more damage than any potential positives.
The Historic Event of Pompeii
The eruption of 79 AD which destroyed the Roman town of Pompeii is regarded as one of the most catastrophic volcanic eruptions of its time. Many believe that it was the intense pyroclastic surge, triggered by the eruption of Vesuvius, that was the cause of the destruction. Remains of the town were left behind, preserving the tragic scene within ash and lava, with the incident capturing the world’s attention and providing insight into the city of Pompeii.
The bodies of the fallen citizens were also preserved, turning to stone in the sudden temperatures. Notably, this included a man and a woman who were trapped while cowering in fear, two of the infamous 3,000 victims of the eruption. In addition to the human remains, other artifacts were discovered when the site was excavated in 1860, giving more of an insight into the everyday life of a Roman citizen.
The Educational Side of Vesuvius
The impact of the tragic eruption has resulted in a great educational platform for students all over the world. The town of Pompeii effectively serves as an outdoor classroom, allowing students to understand the immense power of the nature around them. Schools and universities from all over the world arrange trips to the town, to provide students with the opportunity to see the ancient ruins, with these trips often being a highlight of the course. Guides are on hand to walk visitors through the history and provides engaging lectures to groups about the potential dangers that still lurk in the region.
Due to Vesuvius’ close proximity to Pompeii, the volcano has been a significant feature of the town’s presentations, making the tragedy it caused a major part of the tour and of the curriculum. There are even simulated reconstructions of the days before the eruption to bring the story alive, and computers and digital projection to reconstruct activities inside the amphitheater. All these efforts have been put into place to bring the story and memories of those living in the city to life.
The Safety Measures of the Italian Government
It is undeniable that the tragedy of Pompeii should never be forgotten and that the Italian government need to take the necessary safety measures at all times. The government has prepared a full emergency plan to be followed in the case of any potential eruption. The plan includes the distribution of information to the population, the deployment of emergency personnel and healthcare professionals, and the control of the evacuation of citizens. While emergency supplies are injected into the region, the government has been training and preparation emergency response teams to be ready for any given situation.
Communication with those living in and close to the ‘red zones’ is also an essential part of the plan, as warnings, risk levels, and seismic data should all be conveyed through services to ensure that people are taken care of. All of this is also done with the help of the European Commission’s Civil Protection program, which allows for the proposition of aid from other European countries in the case of any extreme situation.
It’s undeniable that Mount Vesuvius poses a serious threat to the lives of those living in Campania, but it is incredibly reassuring that the Italian government are taking the necessary precautions and monitoring it regularly. Being just 8 miles away from Pompeii, the story of the deadly eruption of 79 AD will remain with us forever as a reminder of its tremendous power. However, with the safety measures put in place and with the help of experts and scientists, the population in and close to the ‘red zone’ can be sure that their safety is taken under the strictest of considerations.