Mount Vesuvius, the huge volcano which covered the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, last erupted on this day in 1944. It is the only volcano on mainland Europe to erupt in the last 100 years.
Vesuvius has a history of explosive eruptions. The number of people living in its vicinity causes concern for many. Its most famous eruption was in AD 79, which buried the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Pliny the Younger, an eyewitness, wrote about the eruption in letters to the historian Tacitus. In 1631, a major eruption buried villages under lava flows and killed about 300 people. The volcano continued to erupt every few years.
The 1944 eruption
The eruption started on 18 March 1944 and went on for several days. It destroyed three villages nearby and about 80 planes belonging to the US Army Air Forces, which were based at an airfield close to Pompeii.
Since 1944, Vesuvius has been uncharacteristically quiet. Experts constantly monitor the volcano for activity and an evacuation plan is in place for the area including Naples. Seismic experts believe they will have between 14 and 20 days’ notice before an eruption. That would allow sufficient time to put the evacuation plan in action.
The area was officially declared a national park in 1955.