An eyewitness, the historian Plinius, writes that on August 24th 79 A.D. a great earthquake shook the ground, this was followed by a tremendous bang caused by the explosion of the peak of Mt. Vesuvius. Out of the crater poured thick black smoke that covered the city and caused ash and red-hot chunks of lava to pour down like rain.
The liquid lava gushed out over the city of Herculaneum, which lies directly at the base of the mountain, and completely destroyed it in hours.
Some of the people of Pompeii tried to escape having the same fate, yet it was almost impossible to flee, mostly because the ships were being thrown back by the flood waves. Therefore many people died in Pompeii, most of them were poisoned by the phosphorus gases from the volcanic eruption. Within two days the whole city was entirely destroyed and covered in a 9m deep layer of ash.
Since 1995 the area around the Vesuvius has been made into a National Park, with hiking paths to lead the visitors up to the rim of the volcano as safely as possible and yet preserve this phenomenon. An exhibition describes the eruption in more detail and tells about the lives of the people affected.
Even today the Vesuvius is still active and is said to be dangerous. It is carefully watched around the clock by experts so that they can predict eruptions in time to take the appropriate safety measures. The powerful earthquakes in southern Italy and the eruption of Mount Etna in Sicily show just how powerful the activities subsurface can be and that they shouldn't be underestimated.